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British Embassy Raises $18,000 for 2 NGOs During Royal Wedding Gala

The British embassy has raised funds totaling $18,000 for two Lebanese non-governmental organizations during its ‘Royal Wedding Gala charity Lunch’ hosted on April 29, the embassy said in a statement Monday.

To present these funds, British Ambassador Frances Guy hosted a reception at her residence, in the presence of representatives of the two charities, and the event sponsors, the statement said.

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HSBC Eyes Islamic Services in Australia

Banking giant HSBC said Monday it was thinking of introducing Islamic financial services in Australia where the government is keen to use such offerings to grow as a regional finance hub.

"We are a major player in Islamic finance globally and that's an area that we are keeping an eye on," HSBC Bank Australia chief executive officer Paulo Maia told Dow Jones Newswires. "It could be the next one."

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EU, Japan Agree to Work Towards Multi-billion-euro Free Trade Deal

The European Union and Japan said Saturday they had agreed to work towards a multi-billion-euro free trade deal linking the world's third biggest economy to the globe's largest market.

A statement issued after a Japan-EU summit said leaders "agreed to start the process" for "negotiations for a deep and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA)/Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), addressing all issues of shared interest to both sides.”

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Quarter of Tunisians Living in Poverty

Nearly a quarter of the Tunisian population is living below the poverty line and some 700,000 people are unemployed, according to figures by the social affairs ministry on Saturday.

Some 24.7 percent of the North African country's 10.4 million population live off less than two dollars a day, the international poverty threshold, said figures quoted on the official TAP news agency.

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US Increases Access to Microfinance for Lebanese Micro and Small Businesses

U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly attended the commencement of the second phase of the Lebanon Investment in Microfinance (LIM) on Thursday.

A $12 million U.S. funded program, LIM provides loans to small businesses, farmers and others so that they can grow their own businesses and create jobs.

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HSBC, Goldman, SocGen Holding Libyan Funds

HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale are among a number of banks holding $53 billion (37 billion euros) of Libyan state assets, documents leaked to an NGO revealed on Thursday.

Global Witness said that on June 30, 2010, HSBC held $292.69 million across 10 accounts and Goldman Sachs had $43 million in three accounts, in various currencies.

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Ferrari Launches in India, Eyeing Growing Super-Rich

Ferrari launched its first dealership in India on Thursday, seven years after it entered China but with the same aim of satisfying demand for flashy cars from the growing class of Asia's super-rich.

The full range of sports cars from the Italian manufacturer will be on sale, with the cheapest model, the California, priced at 22 million rupees (485,000 US dollars) after punitive import tariffs of more than 100 percent are applied.

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World Oil Prices Drop Slightly

The crude oil market drifted lower on Thursday as traders banked their profits after two straight days of gains.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, dipped 17 cents to $101.15 per barrel.

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China's Baidu Eyes Foreign Expansion

Chinese search engine Baidu said Thursday it was thinking about expanding into more overseas markets and expected its share of the booming domestic mobile search market to grow rapidly.

The company, which has already launched a Japanese-language search engine in Japan, is currently determining which markets to target next, senior vice president Shen Haoyu told a technology forum in Beijing.

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Revolt Batters Syria's Already-Struggling Economy

The uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad is eviscerating the country's economy, threatening to hit hard at the business community and prosperous merchant classes, which the embattled regime relies on to help retain its grip on power.

About two months of violent protests around the country have shuttered businesses, driven away tourists and thrust Assad's regime into an unprecedented political quagmire that found its roots in the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Economic growth rates that had hit around 3.5 percent in fiscal 2010, are seen, according to some estimates, contracting by 3 percent in fiscal 2011.

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