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Hong Kong Government Calls Disneyland's Performance 'Unsatisfactory'

The Hong Kong government is unhappy with attendance figures at the Disneyland theme park it co-owns, and a Finnish company plans to build the world's largest biofuel plant in Singapore. Claudia Blume has more on these and other Asian business stories from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's government called the first two years of operation of the territory's Disneyland theme park unsatisfactory. The city holds a majority stake in the park and paid for much of its construction. Without disclosing exact figures, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Frederick Ma, said Disneyland had missed its attendance target for the second year in a row.

Hong Kong Disneyland has been criticized for being too small and offering fewer high-profile rides than Disney's other parks in the United States, Tokyo and Paris.

Ma said the Hong Kong government will continue to push for improvements.

"The government will continue to urge the park management to formulate cost-effective business strategies, improve the park's operational efficiency and work more closely with the local travel trade, with a view to harnessing the full economic potentials of this international theme park," he said.

A Finnish refining company, Neste Oil, says it will spend more than $800 million to build the world's largest biodiesel plant in Singapore. The plant, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010, will use palm oil to produce fuel for vehicles.

The Finnish company says it chose Singapore because of the city-state's position as a regional oil-refining center. Another major advantage, Neste says, is Singapore's proximity to palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Biofuels are being touted as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels - the burning of fossil fuels releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and many scientists believe this is contributing to global climate change.

Neste's announcement, however, comes as environmentalists are attacking the clearing of land for palm oil plantations, especially in Indonesia. They say peat bogs that contain large amounts of carbon are being dug up to make way for the palms, releasing their trapped carbon into the atmosphere.

Japan's economy grew at an annualized pace of 1.5 percent in the third quarter. That was much lower than the government's estimate of a 2.6 percent rise. Growth was hit by weaker-than-expected business investment.

And the Chinese government has approved a joint venture with Kuwait to build a $5 billion oil refinery in the southern province of Guangdong.

The project will be jointly run by China's top refiner, Sinopec, and the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation.