Some of Asia's top companies report higher profits, while interest rates in Australia reach a six-year high. VOA's Heda Bayron has more in our weekly wrap of business news in the Asia-Pacific.

Australian homeowners now have to pay more for their mortgages, after the country's central bank lifted rates a quarter of a percentage point to 6 percent.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says the Reserve Bank's decision is in response to rising prices, especially for gasoline.

"Nobody likes interest rates going up," he said. " But I don't believe in the circumstances the Reserve Bank had any responsible alternative other than to take that decision. It's a decision that's the consequence of the strength of the economy."

Elsewhere in the region, many top companies have released their quarterly earnings.

In Japan, rising fuel prices failed to make a dent in overall sales of Toyota Motors. The world's second largest carmaker says profit in the quarter ending in June rose nearly 40 percent to $3.23 billion from the same period last year. The company says a weaker yen and higher sales of fuel-efficient cars boosted revenue. Toyota also expanded its market share in the United States - its biggest market - to 15 percent, second only to General Motors.

Financial giant HSBC Holdings says profit rose 15 percent in the first half of 2006 to nearly $9 billion from the same period last year. The bank's Hong Kong operations contributed 21 percent of total profit before tax. Profit in emerging markets like China and India rose by 20 percent or more. The bank says it plans to double its staff in China by next year and expand in Japan to tap into that country's economic recovery.

Southeast Asia's largest telecommunications company, Singapore Telecom, reports a nearly six percent rise in profit to $535 million in the three months to June.

Singtel Chief Executive Officer Lee Hsien Yang says its overseas telecommunication investments contributed some 70 percent to earnings. Singtel partly owns Optus in Australia and Bharti in India.

"The success of our international expansion has created a diversified earnings base. In Australia, Optus increased mobile data revenues to 21 percent," he said. "Among our associates, Bharti added a record 3.5 million new mobile customers during the quarter."


In Cambodia, more tourists visited the country in the first half of 2006 - rising 19 percent to 813,000. South Koreans made up 18 percent of all visitors. Cambodia aims to attract a 1.6 million tourists in 2006.