Morning business round-up: China cuts growth target


What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

China expects economic growth of 7.5% this year as it looks for more sustainable expansion, prepares for a change in leadership and rides out a global slowdown.

Premier Wen Jiabao unveiled the target at the start of the annual National People's Congress.

Despite setting a target of 8% growth over the past eight years, China has regularly grown more quickly.

This has caused problems including high inflation and a widening wealth gap.

AIG is offering 1.7 billion shares in a range of 27.15-27.50 Hong Kong dollars per share, according to Bloomberg and Reuters news agencies.

Shares of AIA, Asia's third-largest insurer, were suspended on Monday.

In 2010, AIG sold two-thirds of its AIA stake in an initial public offering, also to help repay the bailout.

Traders on the Hong Kong stock exchange will see their lunch break trimmed from 90 minutes to an hour from Monday.

The move has been fiercely resisted by some local stockbrokers, who say they need the extended lunch break to meet with clients and conduct research.

They have organised a number of last-ditch protests in recent weeks.

The stock exchange said the move was necessary to make Hong Kong more competitive by aligning trading hours with major exchanges in Asia.

In commodities news, trading giant Glencore has reported a sharp rise in revenues on the back of higher raw material prices.

It also said it would push ahead with its planned merger with mining giant Xstrata, describing it as the "logical" next step for the firms.

Revenue for the year to 31 December 2011 was up 28% to $186.2bn (£117.7bn) and net income excluding one-off items rose 7% to $4.06bn.

But the company offered no improvements in the terms of its deal with Xstrata.

Media caption,
Biz Heads

Retail sales across the eurozone rose unexpectedly in January, figures show, but a separate survey has indicated economic activity remains weak.

EU figures showed retail sales in the 17 countries that use the euro rose a stronger-than-expected 0.3% in January.

Sales across the EU's 27 states as a whole rose 0.7% in January.

However, February's eurozone purchasing managers' index (PMI) for services and industry indicated that activity in these sectors contracted last month.

The trial of former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde, on charges of negligence over the 2008 financial crisis, has begun in Reykjavik.

Mr Haarde is thought to be the first world leader to face criminal charges over the crisis.

He rejects the charges as "political persecution" and has said he will be vindicated during the trial.

The country's three main banks collapsed during economic turmoil and the failure of Icesave hit thousands.

The latest edition of the Business Daily programme asks whether the rise of Greece's underground economy is further damaging its state finances.

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