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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (December 21, 2000 - OFO)---New Caledonia's booming mobile phone market, which was until now restricted to the main island, is to be extended to the Loyalty group of islands (North), RFO-radio reports.

The new addition to the network comes as sales of mobile phones have boomed in the French territory for the past year.

In order to extend the service to the four Loyalty group islands (Maré, Lifou, Tiga and Ouvéa), the local Office des Postes et Télécommunications has set up a new sales office in Lifou's Wé village.

The mobile phone service is scheduled to become effective in this region by March next year.



NOUMEA, New Caledonia (December 21, 2000 - OFO)---The French Development Agency (AFD) has earmarked over two billion French Pacific Francs (CFP, around US$15 dollars) to help New Caledonia develop its infrastructures, including the planned purchase of two Airbus jets, daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Most of the loan (1.4 billion CFP) is devoted to the purchase of two Airbus A330 planned by New Caledonia's international airline Air Calédonie International (dubbed AirCalin).

Earlier this month, AirCalin Board of Directors resolved to increase its capital before December 31, in order to pave the way for the purchase.

Both planes, under a special tax exemption scheme for the benefit of development investments in French territories, should be purchased duty free with a price reduction of 30 percent to 40 percent.

AirCalin deputy general manager Didier Tappéro said most of the new shares will be purchased thanks to a deal with French saving bank Caisse d'Epargne.

"This should cover about half of the planes' price," Tappéro said.

Another plane, an A320, would be leased with a possible purchase option.

The whole AirCalin investment is estimated to some US$268 million.

The three planes are expected to start operating by mid-2002 on AirCalin's traditional routes to Australia, New Zealand, Wallis & Futuna, French Polynesia and Japan.

A new route to Los Angeles is also being considered for opening.

The rest of the loan also touches on the territory's infrastructure development.

AFD, apart from the help it provides to French overseas territories, is also a regular donor to Pacific island states, where it funds similar infrastructure development projects.

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