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Asian Bond Markets Show Robust Growth

Asian bond markets expanded robustly in the second half of 2006, and China is the latest country to launch a bullet-train service. Claudia Blume has more on these and other Asian business stories from our Asian News Center in Hong Kong.

The Asian Development Bank says the East Asian bond markets expanded rapidly in the second half of 2006. The value of local-currency bonds in circulation during the last six months of last year reached $2.8 trillion, up more than 32 percent from a year earlier.

Jong-Wha Lee is head of the ADB's office of regional integration.

"Growth rate was stronger in the People's Republic of China, there it was 51 percent, and [in] Thailand [it] was 42 percent," Lee says.

The ADB says the rise in total value came through a combination of an increased number of bonds, and appreciation of Asian currencies against the U.S. dollar.

China has put 280 high-speed trains into operation. The trains, which connect the country's major cities, can travel at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour, and are expected to cut travel time by up to 50 percent.

Railway officials say the new trains are aimed at increasing China's railway passenger capacity by 18 percent and its cargo capacity by 12 percent. They say more than 500 bullet trains will be in service by the end of the year.

U.S. software company Microsoft and Chinese computer maker Lenovo will set up a joint research and development center. The multi-billion-dollar facility will be based in Lenovo's existing research base in Beijing. Each company will have a 50 percent stake in the center.

In other news from China, the country's biggest hotel operator, Jin Jiang International Group, formed a joint venture with Canada-based Fairmont Hotels and Resorts to renovate Shanghai's famous Peace Hotel. The 78-year old hotel was closed this month for renovations and is scheduled to reopen in 2010.

India's top software exporter, Tata Consultancy, announced a 47 percent rise in the latest quarter's net profits. Profit for the three months until March was $270 million.

The growth came mainly from large outsourcing contracts from overseas clients. India has created a major industry doing work for Western companies, including software development and providing customer services.

The Australian media and gaming company Publishing and Broadcasting Limited says it is expanding into the U.S. gambling market. The company plans to pay $250 million for a 20 percent stake in Fontainebleau Resorts, the U.S. casino developer. Fontainebleau is developing a new casino resort on the Las Vegas Strip, which is expected to open in 2009.