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China News: iPhone 5 One Step Closer to Release in Mainland; Baidu Reports Solid Third-Quarter Earnings

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China's Big 4 Banks also posted earnings results this week.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The 18th Communist Party Congress is days away, and to ensure everything goes smoothly in this once-in-a-decade leadership transition, China is clamping down on… just about everything, reports the New York Times.
In recent days, kitchen knives have been removed from store shelves, Internet access has mysteriously slowed to the speed of molasses, and international news channels like CNN and the BBC have disappeared from television sets in upscale health clubs.

At the Bookworm, a popular English-language bookstore, the section previously devoted to Chinese politics and history has been stuffed with Stephen King thrillers, child-rearing guides and Victoria Beckham's That Extra Half an Inch.

Even virtual private networks, or VPNs, which people in China use to get around the Great Chinese Firewall to access sites such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), have been targeted by Chinese authorities, as Chinese president Hu Jintao prepares to hand over the title of party chief to vice president and heir apparent Xi Jinping,

Meanwhile, here are some of this week's China business headlines:
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL): Apple took another step towards launching its iPhone 5 in China this week after China's State Radio Management approved the introduction of two versions of the phone, one compatible with China Unicom's 3G network, the other with China Telecom's CDMA network, reports AllThingsD.

With the country's Quality Certification Center having approved the device as well, Apple now just needs China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to grant a network access license and the iPhone 5 will be good to go in the mainland.

On an October 25 earnings call, Apple CEO said the device would debut in China in December and all signs point to his remarks being accurate. Apple also has to make sure supply meets demand, after it underestimated China's appetite for the iPhone 4S earlier in the year.

China Banks: The mainland's Big 4 banks have reported strong expectations-beating double-digit third-quarter profit growth in the past week, but the quartet look set to post their poorest annual profit growth figures since going public.

According to Reuters, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (PINK:IDCBY), Agricultural Bank of China Ltd (HKG:1288), China Construction Bank (PINK:CICHY), and Bank of China (PINK:BACHY) could report growth as low as 5% for 2012.

"As loans mature, they will have to be re-priced downwards based on the new benchmark rate," Bill Stacey, an analyst at KBW in Hong Kong, told the news agency. "The margin pressure has been deferred, but it's coming."

The Big 4 banks are also preparing for bad loans. During the post-financial crisis recovery of 2009, banks offered many loans for construction and investment, but the companies who received these loans are finding it difficult to repay them in the current economic slowdown. As such, each of the Big 4 raised provisions against nonperforming loans in the third quarter, which has been the third successive quarter they have done so.

Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU): China's Internet search giant posted healthy numbers for the third quarter, with profits increasing almost 60% to over 3 billion yuan, or 8.59 yuan ($1.38) per share, compared to $1.88 billion yuan, or 5.38 yuan per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Factoring out stock-based compensation, Baidu recorded earnings per share of 8.76 yuan ($1.40), when the consensus estimate had been earnings of $1.28 per share.

The company's fourth-quarter revenue forecast of 6.155 billion yuan to 6.345 billion yuan ($986 million to $1.02 billion) fell below analysts' estimate of $1.03 billion, however. Competition from Qihoo 360 (NYSE:QIHU), which debuted a rival search engine in August, and tepid economic growth in China were likely reasons for Baidu's weaker-than-expected guidance, noted the Wall Street Journal.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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