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* JX Holdings Inc.'s exploration unit and PetroVietnam discovered natural gas and condensate while test drilling a block offshore from Vietnam. The companies will continue to evaluate the commercial viability of the block, known as 16-2, JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration Corp. said on Wednesday in a statement. The block is located about 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the southern coast of Vietnam, the company said.

* Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has approved investigators' proposal to examine violations by partly private lender Vietnam International Bank involving the government's interest rate subsidy last year, the government said.

* Vietnamese businesses are forecast to invest between US$700 million and $900 million abroad in 2011, against $900 million last year, the Foreign Investment Department said.

* Vietnam had 170.1 million phone subscribers at the end of 2010, a rise of 35.4 percent from a year ago, including 16.4 million land-line telephones and 153.7 million mobile phones, with the latter rising 39.8 percent from 2009, the General Statistics Office said.

* Vietnam plans to create jobs for 1.6 million people this year, 87,000 of which will be abroad, after 1.61 million jobs were created last year, 85,546 of which were for overseas work, the Labor Ministry said.

* The Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association has advised member companies to avoid selling contracts with forward shipment to limit risks and aim for more contracts with spot shipment.

* Vietnam will cut import taxes by between 1 percent and 6 percent on nearly 1,000 items in 2011 as part of the country's commitment to the World Trade Organization, Vietnam News reported, citing the Ministry of Finance. The cuts will apply mostly to agricultural produce, seafood, construction materials and electrical appliances.

* Some banks in Vietnam have lowered interest rates and offered gifts to attract clients in an attempt to boost lending this year, Saigon Tiep Thi newspaper said on its website, without saying where it got the information. The Vietnam unit of Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. has cut its lending interest rate by as much as 2 percentage points, the report said.

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