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* Leading mobile phone maker Nokia plans to start construction of a handset factory in Vietnam in the third quarter, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing CEO Stephen Elop. The company planned an initial investment of around 200 million euros (US$275 million) for the project with further investments thereafter. The plant, in the northern province of Bac Ninh, is scheduled to start production in 2012.

* Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, the state-owned oil producer known as PetroVietnam, said crude oil production totaled 7.23 million tons and gas output was 4.7 billion cubic meters in the first half, according to a statement on its website. PetroVietnam expects crude output to be 7.8 million tons and gas production to be 3.5 billion cubic meters in the second half of the year, the statement said.

* Economic growth may quicken to 6.5 percent next year, Dau Tu newspaper reported, citing a Ministry of Planning and Investment document. The country's exports may rise 12 percent to 14 percent and budget deficit is targeted at less than 5 percent of gross domestic product, the report said, citing the document.

* Exports may rise between 17 percent and 18 percent this year from 2010, to a range of $84.5 billion to $85.5 billion, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade's forecasts given in a statement on the government's website Monday. Imports in the second half are forecast to be $49.5 billion to $50.5 billion, bringing total imports for 2011 to about $99 billion, according to the statement. The trade deficit for 2011 is forecast to be about $14 billion to $14.5 billion.

* Vietnam's foreign reserves rose by $3 billion in the first half, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, chairman of the government office, said at a regular briefing in Hanoi last week. The country's foreign exchange and gold markets have been stable, he said.

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