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  • The average cost on the mainland is 42 cents higher than a year ago; Maui drivers are paying $4.

China has 450 million Internet users

BEIJING » China’s number of Internet users — already the world’s largest — rose to 450 million this year, more than a third of the country’s population, a senior official said yesterday.

Official statistics show that the number of users, as of the end of November, is an increase of 20.3 percent compared with last year, Wang Chen, head of China’s State Council Information Office, told a news conference. China’s population is more than 1.3 billion.

China’s boom in Internet usage has come with the growth of an equally extensive policing system, from technical filters that block sites based on certain words to human monitors who scan bulletin boards and micro-blogging posts for political dissent.

Online phone services targeted

BEIJING » China is going after Internet phone services such as Skype in a move to protect the country’s state-owned telephone companies, causing alarm among consumers who rely on cheap Internet calls.

A notice by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology says on its website this month it is working to fight "illegal Internet phone services" but does not specify any actions. China also has a strong interest in exercising tight control over information, and Skype has been a popular tool with activists and others who want to share information relatively freely.

Government converts Ally stock

WASHINGTON » The Treasury Department says it has taken a step to recover the taxpayer funds invested in Ally Financial, the auto lender formerly known as GMAC.

The government is converting about a third of its $17.2 billion investment from preferred securities to common stock. That should make it easier to sell its stake, Treasury officials said. The conversion increases the government’s ownership of Ally to 74 percent from 56 percent.

The Treasury Department first bailed out the company in late 2008, as part of the Bush administration’s assistance to the U.S. auto industry. The Obama administration invested additional sums in May and December 2009.

Groupon raises $500 million

CHICAGO » Groupon Inc., the daily-deal coupon site, has raised more than half the funds in a financing round that could generate as much as $950 million. The equity offering brought in more than $500 million, Groupon said yesterday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That leaves about $450 million remaining in the funding round, the company said. Founded in 2008, the company could generate more than $500 million in sales this year, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month.


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