Mazda Motor Corp said on Wednesday its sales in China in the January-March quarter rose 22 percent to a record 37,217 vehicles, and forecast a 33 percent jump for all of 2009 to 170,000 vehicles.

For March, sales grew 18 percent to 14,239 thanks to brisk sales of the Mazda6 sedan, the Japanese automaker said. That outpaced a 10.3 percent rise in the overall Chinese market, which had been bolstered by government incentives to lift demand.

Mazda is due to launch a remodeled version of the Mazda6 on April 25 in China, but will continue to sell the existing version due to its popularity, a spokeswoman said.

Mazda operates a three-way car manufacturing venture in China with its top shareholder Ford Motor Co and Changan Automobile Co, and has a separate venture with FAW Car.


The Chinese government said here Friday that the second South Asian Countries Commodity Fair is scheduled to be held in Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province, during June 6-10.

    Chinese officials told a press conference that the upcoming fair is aimed to further aid trade between China and South Asian countries, help China import more from South Asia and reduce the trade imbalance between China and South Asian countries.

    Chen Jian, vice minister of the Ministry of Commerce, said trade between China and South Asia had developed vigorously in the last few years, with two-way trade volume jumping to 66 billion U.S. dollars last year from 5.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2000.

    Chen said both Chinese and South Asian economies were hit by the global financial crisis, which featured plunging exports, deceleration of economic growth and factory closure, and the commodity fair would help China to import more from South Asian nations and provide an opportunity for these countries to discuss how to expand trade and fight the financial crisis.

    According to Chen, the Chinese government was taking a series of measures to improve trade with South Asian countries, including cutting tariffs, aiding import and export, and encouraging imports from South Asian countries.

    Gu Chaoxi, vice governor of Yunnan, announced that the second commodity fair, like the first which was held in Beijing in December 2007, would also exempt booth and exhibition fees for all South Asian exhibitors. The Chinese organizer would also cover the transportation cost of exhibits once they were within the Chinese boundary.

    Gu also promised to offer other free services for exhibitors from South Asia, such as publicity, marketing and quick customs declaration.

    Gu also said three major events would be held on the sidelines of the upcoming commodity fair, namely, a high-level official meeting between China and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, policy briefings for investment in South Asia and trade cooperation meeting.

    Gu said the upcoming commodity fair was planned to have more than 350 booths for exhibitors from seven South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

    According to Gu, the commodity fair would be held alongside the 17th China Kunming Import & Export Commodities Fair, an annual regional trade exhibition sponsored by Yunnan and its neighboring regions including Sichuan and Tibet.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world's biggest bank by market value, and 90 other companies from the Chinese mainland, figure in this year's list of the world's 2,000 biggest companies compiled by Forbes magazine, up from last year's 88 firms.

ICBC has been ranked 12th, the highest for a Chinese company, in the Forbes Global 2000 list, which uses equal weighting of sales, profits, assets and market value to rank companies according to size.

The country's largest oil producer China National Petroleum Corp is ranked 14th on the list, while another banking giant China Construction Bank is 23rd.

In addition, 42 companies from Hong Kong and 45 from Taiwan have also made it into the list.

Although US conglomerate General Electric tops the list, the number of US companies on the list has dwindled from last year's 711 to 551 this year, as many companies were severely battered by the global financial crisis.

The US, whose companies are still dominant on the list, had 751 companies when the list was first published in 2004.

The Forbes Global 2000 companies account for $32 trillion in revenues, $1.6 trillion in profits, $125 trillion in assets and $20 trillion in market value, the US magazine said.

But the aggregate profits and market value took the steepest hit in the latest version of the Global 2000.

Net income of the Global 2000 companies fell to $1.63 trillion, a decline of 30.9 percent from the $2.36 trillion in 2008 and market value dropped 49.3 percent to $19.6 trillion at the same time.

The rankings this year span 62 countries and regions, with more coming from developing countries like India, which has 47 entries.

Even Kazakhstan is now a Global 2000 member. Also gaining a significant presence on the list are corporations from Arab countries: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates each have at least 10 entries in this year's list.

The Forbes Global 2000 list is a rival to the more established Fortune 500 list, which is based only on revenues.

Led by China's largest refiner China Petrochemical Corp, which is ranked 16th, nearly 35 Chinese firms figure in the Fortune 500 list.

The oil refiner stands 33rd in this year's Forbes 2000 list, climbing up from last year's 94th.

Despite the turmoil in the banking industry, banks still dominate the list, with 307 entries, thanks in large measure to their asset totals. A total of 11 banks from the Chinese mainland are on the list.



Chinese shares rose 2.7 percent Friday, driven by world stock market gains and expectations of economic recovery in the first quarter, analysts said.

China's exports dropped 17.1 percent in March from a year earlier to $90.29 billion, according to figures from the General Administration of Customs Friday. The decline slowed from the 25.7 percent year-on-year fall in February.

Imports grew by 14 percent month-on-month in March, pointing to improved foreign trade, according to Customs.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 2.7 percent, or 64.35 points to close at 2,444.23. The Shenzhen Component Index was up 3.49 percent, or 315.13 points to close at 9345.44.

Gains outnumbered losses by 899 to 18 in Shanghai and 763 to 20 in Shenzhen.

Combined turnover rose to 239.98 billion yuan ($35.14 billion) from 166.94 billion yuan the previous trading day.

The M2 figure -- a broad measure of money supply, which covers cash in circulation and all deposits -- was expected to rise 25 percent in March, which "suggested abundant liquidity," Guosen Securities analyst Lin Songli said.

"This is a big increase as the consumer price index for the same time is expected to fall and the gross domestic product in the first quarter may increase by only 6 percent," he said.

The banking sector led the gains Friday after China Merchant Bank (CMB) posted profit gains in 2008 Thursday in its unaudited annual report. Net profit rose from 15.24 billion yuan in 2007 to 21.08 billion yuan in 2008.

Share prices for the CMB rose 1.64 percent to close at 16.14 yuan, and those of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest lender by market value, rose 1.75 percent to 4.07 yuan and the Bank of Communications up 4.41 percent to 6.87 yuan.

The real estate sector rose as home sales in major cities have been increasing. "Share prices for real estate developers were supported by rising home sales," Lin said.

Gemdale Corp rose 3.97 percent to close at 11.25 yuan, and Poly Real Estate Group was up 3.27 percent to 22.75 yuan.

Reports on Friday that the government would allocate 9.3 percent of the 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package to support the energy sector drove up share prices of PetroChina by 1.68 percent to 11.48 yuan, and China Shenhua Energy, the biggest coal producer, by 4.59 percent to 22.81 yuan.


China's coal imports hit a record 5.72 million tons in March, up 37.4 percent from a year earlier, as suppliers exploited cheap shipping and the lack of an annual deal between China's big power firms and coal miners.

The data, published by China's General Administration of Customs, showed a fifth month of coal import increases. The previous peak was 5.67 million tons in February 2007.

"The surge in coal imports is mostly because prices in the international markets are cheaper. It's likely that both thermal coal and coking coal imports rose in March," said Henry Liu, an analyst at Macquarie Bank.

Exports in March jumped 58 percent from the previous month, to 2.27 million tons, bringing the total imports in the first three months of the year to 7.38 million tons, down 27.6 percent from a year earlier, the customs data also showed.

China's four State-owned exporters, including Shenhua, China Coal, Shanxi Coal Import & Export Group and Minmetals, have not reached agreement with Japanese utilities on the annual term price for the Japanese fiscal year 2009, which start on April 1.