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Morning business round-up: Commodity giants eye merger

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

The possibility of a huge deal in the mining sector drew closer on Thursday after mining giant Xstrata said it had been approached by commodities trader Glencore over a possible merger.

The two firms are now in talks over a possible "merger of equals".

Reports have suggested that a merger between the two would create a firm with a combined value of $80bn.

Anglo-Swedish drugs maker AstraZeneca has announced a further 7,300 job cuts over the next two years as part of a new restructuring programme.

The company also announced a fall in pre-tax profits for the three months to the end of December to $2.05bn, compared with $2.28bn in 2010.

Royal Dutch Shell has said it will launch a major investment drive in an effort to boost falling production.

The oil giant said it would spend $30bn (£19.4bn) on new oil and gas projects this year, compared with $24bn in 2011.

The announcement came as Shell reported a rise in profits even as production fell, thanks to higher oil prices.

For the final three months of 2011 net income was $6.5bn, up from $5.7bn a year earlier.

Deutsche Bank has reported a sharp fall in profits after the eurozone debt crisis took its toll on the company's investment banking division.

Net income at Germany's biggest bank in the final three months of last year was 186m euros ($245m; £155m), down from 605m euros a year earlier.

Revenues from investment banking fell by a quarter compared with a year earlier to 3.4bn euros.

Japanese electronics giant Sony has reported another quarterly loss after sales were hit by lower production following the floods in Thailand.

The company reported a net loss of 159bn yen ($2.1bn; £1.3bn) for the final three months of 2011, compared with a profit of 72bn yen a year earlier. Sales fell 17% to 1.8tn yen.

The firm also blamed weaker demand and the strong yen for the loss.

Sony also raised its forecast for losses in the current financial year to 220bn yen from an earlier prediction of 90bn yen.

India's Supreme Court has cancelled 122 telecommunications licences awarded to companies in 2008.

The licences were issued by former minister A Raja, who is accused of mis-selling bandwidth in what has been called India's biggest corruption scandal. Mr Raja denies wrongdoing.

Japanese carmakers have reported a jump in their US sales boosted by new models and the restoration of supply chains.

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Toyota Motors saw its sales increase by 7.5% in January from a year earlier, helped largely by a 56% surge in sales of the new Camry.

Honda Motors reported a 9% jump, while Nissan's sales rose by more than 10%.

Natural disasters in Japan and Thailand last year had resulted in supply chain disruptions, hurting production and sales of Japanese cars in the US.

Pakistan's efforts to revive its export sector have received a big boost after some of its goods were given duty free access to the European Union (EU).

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has approved the EU's move to waive duties on 75 Pakistani products, including textiles, for two years.

The waiver was granted on humanitarian grounds after Pakistan's manufacturing was hurt by floods in the country.

The EU is one of Pakistan's biggest trading partners.

The latest edition of Business Daily looks at Syria's economy with the BBC's Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen.

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