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Asia Business: The Week in Review - 2004-01-12

The Hong Monetary Authority continues to maintain the Hong Kong dollar peg to the greenback amid increased liquidity in the territory. And South Korea's largest credit card company has been bailed out of a looming bankruptcy with a four billion dollar rescue package.

In a continuing effort to maintain the Hong Kong currency peg to the U.S. dollar, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority this past week sold several billion Hong Kong dollars, buying the equivalent in U.S. dollars.

Hong Kong's moves to weaken its currency is a result of the fact that the Hong Kong dollar has been consistently trading beyond its pegged rate of 7.8 to the U.S. dollar. Since September, Hong Kong's de facto central bank has sold off some $40 billion.

Enzo Von Pfeil, the chairman of Hong Kong-based brokerage Commercial Economics Asia, says part of the problem is driven by higher liquidity in the territory. He says foreign investors are pouring money into the territory - buying mainland Chinese "red-chips" or "H-shares" listed on Hong Kong's stock exchange, attracted by China's fast-paced economic growth.

"What we have seen is a lot of foreign money coming in, yes, because they believe in the China story, and yes, because they want to buy H-shares red-chips and indeed some Hong Kong [companies] that have a relationship with China," says Mr. Von Pfeil.

South Korea's largest credit card company, LG Card, has avoided bankruptcy after creditors finally agreed to a rescue package of more than four billion dollars. Under the terms of the bailout, LG Card will be managed by the state-run Korea Development Bank.

Malaysia's Department of Statistics says its Industrial Production Index, or IPI, rose 11.7 percent in November compared to the same month the previous year. The manufacturing output grew by almost 15 percent.

Analysts say the Index's figures bode well for exports and that Malaysia appears to be riding the economic recovery in Asia.