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High Oil Prices Hurt Asia's Transport Companies

High fuel costs are hurting the bottom line of some of Asia's transport companies, while China's top mobile phone operator sees its profit rise.

High fuel costs continue to hurt earnings for transport companies in the region. Neptune Orient Lines, Asia's fourth largest container shipping company, says profit dropped more than 50 percent in the first six months of the year to $187 million compared with the same period last year.

Chairman Cheng Wai Keung says his company is experiencing a tough period.

"It's clear that after record performances in the past three years we have now entered a more challenging period," said Cheng. "In our line of business, freight rates have softened and fuel costs have gone up. But we continue to look for ways to reduce operating cost and this has mitigated the down pressure on the region."

Unprofitable China Southern Airlines says jet fuel expenses surged 28 percent in the first half of the year from the same period last year. But the airline says it managed to trim its loss by nine percent to $100 million because of a rise in passenger numbers.

Australia's flag carrier Qantas says surging fuel costs cut profit 30 percent to $368 million for the year ending in June. As a result, the airline says it will increase fuel surcharges for passengers by as much as 88 percent for long-haul flights.

The World Bank's investment arm says it plans to double its annual investment in Vietnam in the next few years, as the communist-run nation continues its economic reforms. The International Finance Corporation says it already invests $50 million to $75 million a year in Vietnam. Since 1992, it has spent 500 million dollars in the country.

China Mobile, the country's largest mobile phone operator, says profit in the first half of the year jumped 25 percent to $3.6 billion.

An increase in customers and revenue from value-added services such as ring tones and video downloads boosted earnings. Twenty-five million new subscribers were added in the first half of the year. Value-added revenues rose 37 percent.

However, the Thai telecommunications giant Shin Corporation says its profit for the first half fell 19 percent to about $100 million from the same period last year.

The company says this is due to a profit decline in its mobile phone unit, A.I.S., which accounts for some 90 percent of Shin Corp's earnings.