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China's Top Banks, Dubai Port Operator Post Higher Profits in 2008

Some of the world's top companies say they posted sharply higher profits last year even as the global economy slid into a recession.

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest bank by market value, said Wednesday net profits rose 36 percent last year to $16 billion. Bank of China, the world's third-largest by market value, said its net profit grew 14 percent to $9 billion.

China's economy grew nine percent in 2008, vastly outperforming Western nations, where many banks collapsed under the weight of bad loans and toxic assets.

Another company that enjoyed a strong performance in 2008 is Dubai-based DP World, one of the world's largest port operators. It said Wednesday net profits jumped 48 percent last year to $620 million.

But the company says trade volume at its ports around the world fell eight percent in the first two months of this year, extending a slide that began in late 2008. DP World says it is reviewing expansion plans faced with a slowdown in the container terminal industry.

Meanwhile, the European Commission says the European Union's telecommunications industry grew 1.3 percent last year, outpacing the rest of the economy.

It says mobile phone subscriptions rose to 119 percent of the 27-member bloc's population, well above subscription rates for the United States and Japan. The commission said Wednesday the EU's telecom industry benefited from greater competition and lower prices.

In other developments Wednesday, the British division of global banking giant HSBC warned it may lay off 1,200 workers due to weakness in the British banking sector.

Canadian public broadcaster CBC announced it will cut 800 jobs in its English and French-language media operations due to slumping advertising revenues.

PetroChina, the world's second largest energy company by market value, said its net profit fell 22 percent last year to $17 billion, due to falling energy demand and lower oil prices.

And German chemical maker BASF said it will reduce production at its Ludwigshafen headquarters in southern Germany in response to weak demand.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.