A week in tech, April 2-8

A roundup of the latest tech news.

ò Sony replaced the head of its loss making television unit in its latest move to shore up the business, which has been buffeted by tumbling prices of flat-panel televisions. Takashi Fukuda stepped down as president of its TV business group after only a year in the job. He was replaced by Hiroshi Yoshioka, head of the companyÆs audio unit, effective April 1. Falling prices for flat-panel TVs have outpaced SonyÆs ability to cut manufacturing costs. The television unit incurred a $590.4 million loss in the six months up to the end of September and is expected to post a loss for the full fiscal year to the end of March. However, Sony said that it would probably meet its earnings forecast as cost cuts offset a stronger yen. According to the company, growth remains stable (despite the flatscreen tv price drops) and the company is maintaining its full-year forecasts given in January. Sony projected net income would more than double to Ñ340 billion ($3.3 billion) in the year ended March 31. Sony will cut costs and expand output in countries such as Slovakia to mitigate the impact of a stronger Japanese currency.

ò Fujitsu named SVP Kuniaki Nozoe as the new President of the company following a reshuffle in its businesses and attempts to reverse a profit decline. The management change comes as Fujitsu forecast a 60% drop in net profit this fiscal year to Ñ40 billion yen from Ñ102.4 billion. Fujitsu recently moved to distance itself from the expensive and competitive hardware business, saying in January that it would spin off its LSI chip operation. Kurokawa took the helm after Fujitsu suffered a net loss of Ñ122.1 billion in 2003. Prior to the company's expected profit drop this fiscal year, he led the company through a four-year recovery period, increasing its margins and focusing on profitable businesses.

ò Sharp Electronics Corp announced the appointment of Daisuke (Doug) Koshima as chairman and CEO, effective April 1, 2008. He replaced Toshihiko Fujimoto, who will be transferring to a new assignment as general manager for strategic planning with the international business group, Japan. Koshima has spent 37 years with Sharp.

ò Tokyo Electron (TEL) has begun receiving orders from production fabs throughout the world for the Trias HP Ti, the company's latest 300mm metal CVD system. According to TEL, the Trias HP Ti (High Performance Ti) has the ability to deposit titanium (Ti) films over a wide temperature range, including temperatures that are significantly lower than those typically required by conventional Ti CVD reactors. The Trias HP Ti incorporates a proprietary showerhead gas dispersion system with optimised surface treatments to reduce particle-related film defects to the levels required for 32nm devices and beyond.

ò Sumco Corp is expanding production of wafers for solar cells. The company plans to increase output without undertaking any new capital spending. To that end, subsidiary Sumco Solar Corp, will begin full-scale mass production at a large furnace and increase production speed. To reduce wafer breaking and cracking and thus boost yields, the process of cutting ingots into pieces 150mm square and less than 200 microns thick will be improved.

ò Japan's Elpida Memory Inc is in talks with Taiwan's ProMOS Technologies Inc about bilateral cooperation. There are as yet no details to disclose about the plans to tie up. ELPIDA has long been a partner of Powerchip Semiconductor Corp. The two have established a joint venture in Taiwan, Rexchip Electronics Corp.


ò KT Corp is joining Softbank in investing in new media content. Both companies are investing an initial 20 billion won ($20.5 million) each to form a new fund which is aimed at developing and securing new content. KT is looking for future profits from Internet Protocol TV, which offers television and interactive services via broadband. The new fund would be managed by Softbank Ventures Korea, which would participate in the financing of educational and entertainment programming and secure their commercial rights, with eye towards Internet and mobile TV.

ò LG Telecom may offer its 3G service on phones using Google's mobile software platform. The company plans to start selling a model running on Google's Android mobile phone operating system in late 2008 or early 2009. Samsung also hopes to have a Google phone in early 2009. Android phones are planned to be available first for 3G services based on GSM technology, although LG Telecom, which uses the rival CDMA standard, could eventually offer Android phones. LG, which has 18% of South Korea's 44 million mobile users, has lagged behind bigger rivals SK Telecom and in providing more profitable 3G services, such as video calls and wireless Internet.

ò Panasonic Mobile Communications announced it became the first mobile phone manufacturer to achieve a record delivery of 100 million units of mobile communication terminals to Japanese mobile phone carriers. These carriers include NTT DoCoMo, Inc, KDDI Corp and Softbank Mobile. Panasonic Mobile reached milestones of 10 million units in June 1997 and 50 million units in March 2001.

ò Hynix Semiconductor plans to shut down a NAND flash-memory-chip fabrication line in the third quarter to reduce output amid an industry slump and falling chip prices. Also, a plan to launch NAND chip-volume production at a 12-inch fabrication line will likely be pushed to the third quarter. The new line will gradually be ramped up to have a monthly output capacity of more than 130,000 units of 12-inch wafers.

ò Samsung Semiconductor announced that it is now mass producing the lowest powered, highest density DDR2 memory available for servers. Samsung's new 2gb-based DDR2 DRAM offers up to a 50% reduction in power at 1.55 Voltage, which represents the best power performance for the highest density server memory today. Faced with these cost spikes, IT managers are looking to low-power memory as a key means of driving energy costs downward.

ò Yingli Green Energy (YGE) has signed sales contracts with Korea Electric Power Industrial Development Corporation (KEPID) and Kaycom Corp (Kaycom). Under the terms of the contracts, YGE will deliver 1.3 MW of PV modules to KEPID by the end of April 2008 and 2.0 MW of PV modules to Kaycom by the end of May 2008. The PV modules to be provided by the Company under these contracts will be installed in KEPIDÆs planned 1.8MW project in Naju.


ò South Korean companies exported a total of $11.33 billion worth of digital goods last month, up 12.8% from the same period a year earlier, according to the report by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Imports of digital goods, meanwhile, came to $6.51 billion during the same month, up 13% from a year earlier, bringing the nation's trade surplus in the sector to $4.82 billion. March's export growth stemmed mostly from a sharp increase in overseas sales of mobile handsets which jumped 50.4% to $2.04 billion. Exports of home appliance goods and electronics parts including flat panels also grew 3.6% and 2.5% respectively last month to $1.27 billion and $5.23 billion. Semiconductor exports, however, plunged 8.3% over the same period to $2.94 billion as an industry-wide glut continued to weigh on global chip prices.


ò Baidu.com, Inc. has named Ye Peng as its new chief operating officer, effective on April 25, 2008. Before joining Baidu, Ye used to serve Apple China as country general manager. Prior to that, he worked for SatCom AG, and Motorola Mobile Business North Asia. Experts believe that Ye, with his experience in telecom industry, will be able to help Baidu boost its business on the search market of wireless telecom.

ò Chinese LCD producer Shanghai Tianma Micro-Electronics has completed the construction of its 4.5-generation thin-film technology liquid crystal display production line. The project started 13 months ago in Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park, with an estimated first-phase investment of 3.3 billion yuan (US$470.3 million). The production line is planned to produce 30,000 pieces of 730mm x 920mm TFT-LCD glass substrate a month during its initial operation. The product will be applied to displays of less than 10.4 inches in mobile terminals, engineering controlling meters and vehicle navigation equipment.

ò Dell is accelerating its expansion across China by enlisting new local distributors for its business-orientated products in 1,000 cities. Dell unveiled its PartnerDirect program in Beijing, which could intensify rivalry with domestic market leader Lenovo. But Dell did not give a timeframe for the expansion of its distribution network. Dell aims to add about 1,000 resellers under the programme focused on the country's vast number of small and medium-sized businesses. The initiative comes about six months after Dell started its mainland retail strategy for consumer-orientated personal computers with new partner Gome Electrical Appliance Holdings.

ò China Telecom said it was to acquire Beijing Telecom, an arm of its state-owned parent, as the company seeks sources of growth. China Telecom will pay $798.2 million for Beijing Telecom, which reported a 46.4% increase in profits to $67.0 million last year. The move will boost the bottom line at a time when business is threatened by the switch to mobiles. China Telecom lost subscribers for the first time last year and has 220 million phone users. Voice call revenue, which fell for the first time in 2006, was 7.9% lower last year. Average revenue per phone user dropped 10.1%. Regulations forbid fixed-line operators, such as China Telecom and the smaller China Netcom, from operating mobile assets. They are allowed to have limited wireless services that piggyback local fixed-line networks.

ò ZTE Corp recently signed a global partnership framework agreement on system devices with Vodafone. The agreement covers all-range system devices in GSM (global system for mobile communications) and optical transmission. With the agreement, ZTE will customise various system devices for Vodafone with the worldÆs largest production line. ZTE had earlier signed a global partnership framework agreement on terminal products with Vodafone in February 2007, which made it a global cooperator of Vodafone in GSM terminals.

ò Daiwa recently downgraded its rating on China Netcom from hold to underperform, and cut its target price from HK$24.72 ($3.17) to HK$19.96 ($2.56). Daiwa noted that ChinaÆs telecom industry restructuring seems to be the only reason to justify buying, but the broker is not sure whether it is the cure for China NetcomÆs profit downturn. China Netcom posted a net income of $1.7 billion for 2007, down 6.7% from the previous year, as deteriorated by the decline of the traditional voice business.

ò China Telecom posted a 37% drop in its quarterly profit after consumers increasingly turned to mobile phones from fixed-line telephones. China intends to restructure its telecommunications sector and award licenses for 3G mobile services, which will unleash billions of dollars in equipment contracts for suppliers like Nokia and Motorola. The prospects for China Telecom and China Netcom (Hong Kong), which are struggling against a slowdown in traditional fixed-line voice services, hinge heavily on the expected restructuring. A sector reshuffle is expected to grant the fixed-line players a foothold in the high-growth mobile market, although some analysts expect that 3G and the restructuring will be delayed until at least the second half of this year. The company expects revenue from services, excluding its traditional phone business, to rise to half of overall revenue in two years, up from slightly over a third.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò The US professional baseball league will begin streaming games and offering other content on a Chinese-language website it is creating with BroadWeb-Asia in an effort to promote the game in China. The venture reflects the leagueÆs desire to increase baseballÆs global appeal to increase international fans. Media companies have found it particularly useful as a way to reach fans that live far away from their traditional teams and therefore would not be served by traditional television. The CBS annual webcast of the ôMarch Madnessö college basketball tournament, now in full swing, has millions of viewers and is considered one of the watershed events in proving the internetÆs ability to broadcast live sporting events.

ò CDC Software announces that it has completed acquisition of 51% shares of Integrated Solutions Limited (ISL). CDC will establish strategic partnership with cooperation partner through equity injection or shareholding participation in certain specific regions. Besides ISL, CDC has four partners of this kind in India, Argentina, Spain and Mexico. ISL has joined the franchising cooperative partnership plan of CDC. The company plans to help ISL develop and expand businesses to other places in China, as well as Middle East, South East Asia, and India.

ò Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp announced the appointment of Shirley Lin as Chief Strategic Advisor. Lin has extensive international management experience in direct investment, corporate finance, and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to joining SMIC, Lin was a partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs & Co.

ò STMicroelectronics' shipment of set-top boxes in China will reach 98 million units in 2008, according to the company. Shipments hit 72 million units in 2007 with the Chinese market contributing 27% of the company's total revenue of $10 billion in the year.

ò Springsoft will acquire all the outstanding shares of Novas Software. It will become a single global EDA supplier based in Taiwan, offering a range of solutions positioned to meet advanced semiconductor design and verification needs. The agreement builds on the ten-year relationship between the companies that spans financial investment, joint technology development, mutual cross-distribution of products, and coordinated worldwide customer service. Under the terms of the agreement, and pending customary shareholder and regulatory approvals, Springsoft will pay $2.25 per share ($28.6 million) to the other Novas shareholders, giving Springsoft ownership of 100% of the shares. Novas will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Springsoft, and will be renamed Springsoft USA.

ò Acer expects its India revenue to grow to 18 billion rupees ($453.4 million) in 2008 on strong sales. Acer, who competes with China's Lenovo and bigger rivals Hewlett-Packard and Dell, expects to sell 800,000 desktops and notebooks in India in 2008, up 35% from a year earlier. Analysts say strong demand for emerging markets such as China, India, Russia and Latin America will propel the PC sector to healthy growth in the next three years amid slowing demand in more mature markets. Lenovo used to be the number three PC maker around the globe but Acer replaced it after successful acquisitions of Gateway Computers and Packard Bell. Acer's $14.1 billion of sales exceeded Lenovo's by $100.0 million in 2007, plus two months of sales made by Gateway and Packard Bell after acquisitions.

ò Advanced Semiconductor Engineering will invest an additional $90 million in its packaging and testing plant in Shanghai, in a bid to meet the surging demand in the fast-growing major economy. The company has won approval from its board on the plan. It may raise funds for the expansion through a rights issue. ASE has invested around $310.4 million in the mainland to date, accounting for 18.7% of its capital.

Mobile/ Wireless
ò Ericsson announced that the company has entered into a new contract with Far EasTone Telecommunications for its HSPA network expansion. The expansion will reportedly give Far EasTone the highest HSPA penetration in Taiwan, up to 95% of the reported population, and will allow subscribers to enjoy the fastest mobile broadband speeds available. Under the terms of the agreement, Ericsson will enhance HSPA coverage and mobile positioning service solutions and also help Far EasTone to expand its transmission network capacity. .

Hong Kong

ò A range of branding problems including high pricing, lack of quality content and slow connections are being blamed for the continued slow uptake of 3G mobile technology in many Asian markets. This is most especially the case in Hong Kong where Hutchison's 3G unit reported losses of HK$17.9 billion ($2.3 billion) in 2007, a slight improvement on the 2006 loss of $20 billion. Of Hong Kong's 10 million mobile subscribers in December 2007, just 2.7 million used 2.5G or 3G services.

Mobile/ Wireless

ò Motorola Inc will close its mobile phone manufacturing plant in Singapore as part of the company's $500 million global cost-cutting efforts. Motorola said the move, which will affect 700 employees, is aimed at aligning the company's operations to grow the business. Motorola will start phasing out the mobile phone plant's operations in the second quarter and expects the exercise to be completed by the end of the year. Singapore will remain as regional headquarters for software development, research and development as well as for business and corporate functions.

ò Malaysian operator Celcom has selected Ericsson to establish a single core network platform for both GSM and WCDMA technology with the deployment of Mobile Softswitch solution in its network. The move is in line with Celcom's continuous focus to modernise its network to deliver classic telephony services over a more modern and cost efficient network while creating a common foundation for new services.

ò The Australian government canceled a A$958 million ($869 million) funding agreement with a venture led by Singapore Telecommunications to build a broadband network in Australia's more remote areas. The cancellation is said to be because the proposed network didn't meet coverage requirements.

ò Affin Investment Bank cut its target price on Telekom Malaysia to 9.70 ringgit ($3.05) per share, saying the firm's mobile unit spin-off meant less value when both traded separately. TelekomÆs plan to list its mobile businesses separately by the end of April gives investors the chance to sell out of the fixed-line unit where earnings are at greatest risk and valuations least supportive.

ò Moser Baer India said its unit has signed a 10-year contract with LDK Solar for the supply of silicon wafers for producing photovoltaic cells. In a regulatory filing, Moser Baer said LDK Solar would supply Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Ltd (MBPV) with multi-crystalline silicon wafers that can generate 640 mega watts of solar power. No precise financial details were provided.

Information Technology
ò Packet Design, a provider of route analytics technology for managing large IP networks, has signed Alunan Persada to resell its products in Malaysia. Alunan Persada specialises in network and security infrastructure solutions for telecommunications service providers, and is a reseller for such firms like Juniper Networks, Alcatel-Lucent, Tipping Point Technologies and CA. Alunan Persada will provide sales coverage and technical support throughout Malaysia for Packet Design's network management products, including Route Explorer, Traffic Explorer, VPN Explorer and the recently announced VPN Traffic Explorer.

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