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Qantas Airways Receives Takeover Bid

Private equity firms have approached Australia's Qantas airline with a takeover bid, and the European Union has complained to the World Trade Organization that India's tariffs on alcohol violate international trade rules. Claudia Blume has more on these and other regional business stories from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Australia's largest airline, Qantas, has received a takeover approach from a consortium led by the private U.S. equity firm Texas Pacific, and Australia's biggest investment bank, Macquarie. The deal is potentially worth more than $8 billion.

News of the bid has triggered nationalistic sentiment in the Australian media. But Australian treasurer Peter Costello says Canberra will not change current legislation, which limits foreign ownership in Qantas to 49 percent. He says control of the airline, known for the picture of a kangaroo on its tail, will remain in Australian hands.

"The "flying kangaroo" says Australia, and as far as I'm concerned that means majority Australian ownership," he said.

The European Union has asked the World Trade Organization to start consultations with India over the country's high customs duties on European spirits and wines.

European alcohol producers have complained that duties of up to 540 percent restrict their access to the Indian market. The EU says this is a breach of international trade rules.

If the matter is not resolved within the next two months, the EU could ask for the establishment of a WTO panel to rule on the legality of India's import duties.

Japan has marked its longest period of economic expansion since the end of World War II. The country has had 58 months of uninterrupted growth since January 2002. Economists say, however, that growing corporate profits have not led to fatter paychecks for most Japanese.

U.S. investment bank Merrill Lynch has warned that Hong Kong's worsening air pollution threatens the city's long-term competitiveness. The bank says the poor air quality will drive out skilled professionals, who may opt for Hong Kong's cleaner rival, Singapore.

A Chinese industry survey says defects are reported in 77 percent of domestically produced cars within six months of being bought. Industry experts say the defects are the result of local carmakers sacrificing quality to reduce prices.

Problems were mainly found in cheaper cars such as China's homegrown Geely and Chery.