In other items: China getting ready for first private airline; and Sears, Kmart shareholders to vote on merger March 24.

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Bombardier, the world’s No. 3 airplane maker, said it delivered 329 aircraft last fiscal year, five more than in the year earlier, as new models boosted sales of business jets.

The maker of the Learjet and Challenger planes delivered 128 business jets in the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2005, up from 89 the year earlier, the Montreal-based company said in a statement. Sales of regional aircraft to commercial airlines fell to 200, from 232. One amphibious plane was sold, compared with three a year earlier.

Sales of business aircraft were helped by plane-sharing programs, which allow companies to use a jet when needed rather than purchase and maintain their own, Bombardier said. Sales to commercial airlines fell because of higher fuel costs.

Okay Airways

China getting ready for first private airline

China’s aviation regulator is expected to issue a license soon to Okay Airways, making it the first private airline authorized to operate on the mainland, state media reported yesterday.

Okay is based out of Binhai International Airport in Tianjin, a city of 10 million about 60 miles southeast of Beijing, although its headquarters is in the capital.

After receiving a license from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, Okay was expected to begin service in early March, the state-run newspaper China Daily reported.

China began easing controls on private investment in airlines in early 2004.

Earlier reports said Okay would start out operating six Boeing 737 aircraft. It was expected to mainly operate air cargo and express services, passenger charter flights and ground distribution services.

Three other airlines are expected to follow Okay as private carriers: Shanghai-based Spring International Airlines; Eagle Airlines, based in the southwestern city of Chengdu; and Huaxia Airlines in northwestern China’s Gansu province.

Sears, Kmart

Shareholders to vote on merger March 24

Kmart Holding Corp. and Sears, Roebuck and Co. will hold special meetings of their shareholders March 24 to vote on the companies’ proposed merger.

The meetings will be at Sears headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, Ill., which will serve as the headquarters of the combined company following the merger.

The new company, Sears Holdings Corp., will trade on the Nasdaq market as SHLD, the company said yesterday.

The registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the proposed merger has been declared effective, and joint proxy statements will be mailed to shareholders starting today.

Under the merger agreement, Sears Holdings will have a 10-member board of directors, made up of seven members from the current Kmart board and three members from the current Sears board.

Sears Holdings will be the holding company for the two businesses, which will continue to operate separately under their respective brand names.

Compiled from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press.