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Asia Business: The Week in Review - 2004-01-26

Dow Jones plans an Indian edition of its flagship newspaper and Hong Kong's unemployment rate continues to fall.

U.S. news media group Dow Jones will create a joint venture with India's leading publisher, Bennett, to launch a version of the financial daily newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, for South Asia.

If India's government approves the deal, Dow Jones will own 26 percent of the venture -- the maximum foreign ownership allowed. Bennett, which publishes the Times of India and the Economic Times, will hold 74 percent.

Dow Jones hopes to benefit from India's recent lifting of restrictions on foreign ownership in media companies. It will have the right to increase its stake to 50 percent should the laws be relaxed further. Dow Jones already publishes Asian and European editions of the Journal.

Hong Kong's government reported that unemployment declined slightly to reach seven-point-three percent in the October to December 2003 period. In the previous three-month period, the rate had been 7.5 percent.

Financial Secretary Henry Tang says tourists are returning to Hong Kong, so hotels, shops and restaurants are hiring workers. Last year, tourism slumped and thousands of workers were laid off during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. "We found that job creation is actually much larger than last time," he says. "So it indicates the improvement in the labor market could continue."

According to the Financial Supervisory Service, a watchdog organization, South Korean banks suffered a 47 percent decline in net profit in 2003. The service blames the decline on unpaid credit card bills and consumer debt.

South Korea's 19 banks posted a combined net profit of $2.2 billion in 2003, down from more than $4 billion the previous year.