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Asia Business: The Week Ahead - 2003-09-01

Teamwork is in the air between major Chinese and U.S. airlines. And warnings emerge that dozens of international companies may be planning to bail out of Indonesia.

U.S. based United Airlines, the world's second largest, says it is forming a marketing alliance with Air China. The airlines plan to carry each other's passengers in an arrangement known as code sharing.

The deal adds five new Chinese destinations to United's offerings, including the southern Chinese commercial centers of Guangzhou and Shenzhen. United already flies to nearby Hong Kong. Air China, the country's flagship carrier, will gain access to 14 cities in the United States.

The deal will be a boost to China's aviation industry, which was severely damaged when people stopped traveling to the country during the recent outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. Mark Schwab, United Airlines vice president for the Pacific region, says similar deals may follow. "I think it's a little premature to announce precisely who we're working with, but we are talking to a couple of carriers in the region actively," he says.

The code-sharing deal goes into effect October 31. That date is also the deadline for financially strapped United to show a profit under the terms of a U.S. bankruptcy protection arrangement.

China's largest petroleum producer is benefiting from a jump in the world oil prices. PetroChina says net profit soared 102 percent in the six months to June, compared with the same period last year, to nearly $4.7 billion.

The war in Iraq and depleted inventories in the United States pushed crude oil prices up by an average of 40 percent during the first half of the year, to more than $28 dollars a barrel. PetroChina executives say the company is likely to set a profit record for the full year.

Indonesian media reports warn that more than one hundred international companies plan to pull out of the country by next year, due to a worsening investment climate.

The Jakarta Post and the Antara news agency are among outlets publishing the reports, which cite corporate fears over terrorism and uncertainty about the legal system. International investment already took a sharp dive in 2002, dropping 35 percent.

One of Australia's biggest beer and wine producers is experiencing a financial hangover. Foster's posted a 17.5 percent drop in annual net profit in the six months to June, compared with the same period last year.

Foster's executives say the drop was due to a series of one-time charges against earnings, including the closing of a brewery in Sydney. The company's chief executive officer says its fundamentals remain strong, but warns earnings are likely to remain flat in the coming year due to difficult market conditions.