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China Reports Strong Investment Growth

China reports strong investment growth in the first four months of this year, while Japan's economy lost some steam in the first quarter. Claudia Blume at VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong has more on these and other business stories from the region.

Domestic investment in Chinese real estate, factories and other fixed-asset investments rose more than 25 percent in the first four months of this year, compared to a year earlier.

This strong growth in China's urban areas was fueled by the huge amount of liquidity in the country. Experts say this indicates that attempts by the government to cool the economy have not been successful. Economists expect interest rates to continue rising this year as a result.

Japan's central bank, meanwhile, decided to leave its key interest rate unchanged, at 0.50 percent. The decision came after the government announced a slight slowdown of the country's economic expansion in the first quarter.

Japan's gross domestic product grew at an annualized pace of 2.4 percent in the first three months of this year. While this was the ninth straight quarter of expansion, the growth was only half as large as in the previous quarter.

In other news from Japan, Sony Corporation, the world's second-largest maker of consumer electronics, announced an operating loss of more than $560 million for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, which ended in March. Noboyuki Oneda, Sony's executive vice president, says that the massive costs involved in launching its PlayStation 3 game machine, and the machine's low introductory sales price, led to the loss.

"While sales of PS3 increased, the segment recorded a large operating loss due to the sale of PS3 at a strategic price, lower than its production cost, during the introductory period," he said.

India's leading distillery group, United Spirits, bought the Scottish whisky maker Whyte and Mackay for more than $1 billion. United Spirits' large sales network in emerging markets such as India and China is expected to help expand the market for the White and Mackay's various Scotch brands. The purchase was the fourth biggest overseas takeover by an Indian company this year.

Pakistan has awarded a Malaysian consortium two highway projects worth more than $100 million. The consortium is led by the state-owned Construction Industry Development Board of Malaysia. The board signed an agreement with the National Highway Authority of Pakistan to build the Karachi Northern Bypass, and the Rawalpindi Bypass and Turnol Interchange.

And consumer goods-company Unilever has opened Vietnam's largest distribution center. The $12 million facility, located near the southern business center of Ho Chi Minh City, is Unilever's largest and most modern facility in Southeast Asia.