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Morning business round-up: Zara owner sees profit rise

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

Inditex - the company that owns Zara, the biggest fashion clothing retailer in the world - has reported yet another increase in profits, helped by sales in Eastern Europe and its new online store in China.

Profits rose by more than 22% to 2.3bn euros ($3bn; £2bn) in 2012.

The results narrowly missed analysts' high expectations, and shares were down more than 3% this morning.

The company also announced plans to open more than 440 stores in 2013.

Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has posted an 83% plunge in profits amid higher fuel costs and a drop in demand for corporate travel.

The carrier made a net profit of 916m Hong Kong dollars ($118m; £80m) in 2012, down from HK$5.5bn a year ago.

Cathay said that weak cargo demand and increased competition in the region also hurt its profitability.

The airline industry has been hit hard by an economic slowdown in key markets such as the US and Europe.

At the same time, new rights for airline passengers in the EU have been unveiled by the European Commission.

They include rerouting travellers with rival carriers if a flight is delayed for more than 12 hours.

The rules also clarify what are considered exceptional circumstances for compensation.

For example, mechanical failures on board the aircraft do not count, but natural disasters and traffic control strikes do.

The Commission says the new rules, which are not likely to become law until 2014, will give a lot more certainty to airlines and passengers.

Also in the EU, new standard rules have been adopted to settle disputes between consumers and traders out of court.

The 27 member states will have to provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) bodies for all business sectors, including impartial dispute mediators.

UK security firm G4S has seen its share price fall after reporting a decline in profits due to losses on its contract for the London 2012 Olympics.

G4S was heavily criticised when it emerged it had failed to recruit enough security guards for London 2012.

Total revenues rose 10.4% to £7.5bn. But the costs of the Olympics, already announced at £88m, meant pre-tax profit fell to £175m from £257m.

Excluding the Olympics, pre-tax profit rose to £266m.

And another company is also facing Olympic-related difficulties. Mining firm BHP Billiton has said that it is co-operating with a probe into possible violations of corruption laws during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Its comments came after the Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported that US and Australian authorities were looking into BHP's actions.

As a sponsor of the games, BHP provided gifts and hospitality to Chinese and other officials, the report alleges.

BHP, the world's largest miner, said its actions complied with the law.

The latest Business Daily podcast from the BBC World Service asks: is Argentina about to go bust? The Latin American giant has been struggling with inflation and a trade imbalance. But most of all, a New York judge, who says it has to pay creditors from an earlier default in full. A decision is due this month.

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