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Asia Business: The Week in Review - 2004-05-03

Two of the world's largest computer chip makers report strong net profit as demand for chips continues to grow. In South Korea, agriculture officials have banned imports of some U.S. oranges, because they might carry a citrus fungus.

Taiwan's United Microelectronic Corporation, the world's second largest contract chipmaker, reported a net profit of $208 million for the three-month period ending in March. That is the company's best quarterly net profit in three years. In the same three-month period a year ago, UMC booked $12 million in profit.

Its rival, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, also posted its best earnings figures in three years, booking net profit of $569 million. A year ago, the world's largest contract chipmaker had reported just $132 million in net profit.

Lora Ho is the chief financial officer for TSMC and spoke with reporters and financial analysts recently. She says the company should continue to produce strong earnings. "TSMC's first quarter marks the beginning of a year where we believe TSMC will once again deliver record-breaking financial performance."

South Korea's Daewoo International Corporation will invest $54 billion U.S. dollars in a project to find and extract natural gas in the Bay of Bengal, off the western Burmese coast. The company has a 60 percent stake in a consortium made up of South Korea and Indian companies.

Daewoo International expects to begin commercial production at the location by 2010. And the company reportedly hopes to achieve annual profit of $86 million.

The South Korean government has banned imports of oranges grown in two counties in the U.S. state of California. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says some citrus fruit grown in the two counties carry a contagious fungus that could spread to citrus groves in the country's southern coastal region.