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China's Leading Search Engine Reports Soaring First Quarter Profit

China's biggest Internet search engine reported soaring first quarter profit and Thailand's flag carrier profited from a recovery in tourism.

China's leading Internet search engine Baidu posted a first-quarter net profit of $4.4 million, about 14 times its earnings in the same period last year.

Total revenue nearly tripled to about $17 million.

Baidu chairman Robin Li thinks the Beijing company will continue to control the Chinese search market, outperforming rivals such as Google.

"Our deep connection to Chinese users and our focus on providing the services and products most desired by them is the real differentiator for Baidu and has helped us become the number one Chinese search engine," Li said.

One of Baidu's newest services is an online, user-generated encyclopedia, modeled on the Web site Wikipedia, which is blocked by authorities in China. Entries on the Chinese-language "Baidupedia" site are censored by the government.

In other news from China, Shanghai Airways will become a member of Star Alliance next year.

Members of the airline alliance include Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Germany's Lufthansa and the U.S. carrier United Airlines. Star Alliance members share flight numbers and some facilities in an effort to appeal to more passengers.

Shanghai Airways was invited to join as international airlines are increasingly trying to secure a foothold in China, one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets.

Star Alliance member Thai Airways reported a 78 percent year-on-year rise in its second-quarter net profit. Net earnings jumped to $165 million.

The Thai flag carrier profited from a recovery in tourism following the 2004 tsunami. A higher number of passengers, especially from Europe, and gains from a stronger baht, the Thai currency, outweighed surging fuel costs.

The U.S. company Warner Music has set up a partnership with SK Telecom, South Korea's largest telephone and Internet provider. The joint venture will allow South Korean mobile phone users to download and listen to music on their handsets.

The new company, dubbed WS Entertainment, will offer only Korean artists signed by Warner Music Korea.

Warner Music executives said South Korea is one of the most advanced and progressive mobile music markets in the world.