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Major Asian Bank Reports Significant Profit Increase - 2003-03-10

HSBC Holdings revealed net profit rose 25 percent last year, to $6.2 billion. The bank, which dominates Hong Kong's financial industry and has long been a major force in Asia, says part of the gain came from an improvement in its Latin American operations.

Its Hong Kong operation, however, saw net profit fall 1.5 percent, to $331 million.

Company chairman David Eldon said the drop in profit in the Hong Kong operation could mean staff lay-offs. "As we expand further outside Hong Kong, one has to expect that the proportion [of profit] coming from within Hong Kong will diminish. As far as the servicing centers are concerned, I can't deny that there may be some redundancies," he said

The South Korean government says the country's trade deficit has risen sharply in recent months, mainly because of increases in prices for imported oil.

The trade deficit in February was $317 million compared with January's deficit of $87 million. The government, however, predicts the trade deficit will ease in March as exports are expected to pick up.

Australia's Bureau of Statistics reported the nation's current account deficit hit a record of seven billion dollars in the quarter ending in December of 2002. That was a gain of 40 percent from the previous quarter.

The bureau blamed the deficit on weak global demand for Australian goods, a drop in agricultural exports due to a prolonged drought and increased imports of aircraft.