Toshiba expects to lose Ñ110 billion ($1.1 billion) this year on its now defunct HD-DVD business. Toshiba lowered its net profit estimate for the year ending March 31 by 31% to Ñ125 billion to reflect the HD-DVD loss as well as plunging prices for Nand flash memory chips, another of its core products. The company said last month that it would stop manufacturing HD-DVD discs and players at end of March, leaving the field to SonyÆs Blu-ray format. It initially expected the business to lose Ñ50 billion due to falling prices for HD-DVD players, but prices have sunk further since it announced the formatÆs demise and the company now expects a larger operating loss of Yen65 billion. It will also take a Yen45 billion charge to account for the depreciation of obsolete manufacturing equipment and the scrapping of piled up inventory.
The next update of Sony's PlayStation 3 console will include features that let users download games, videos and ring tones. The system update will add Blu-ray Disc Profile 2.0, or BD-Live, capability, to the PS3. It will also let users copy photos and music playlists to their hand held PlayStation Portable, using the PSP as a remote control for playing music on the PS3 and stream-linking video files from the Web. This will make the PS3 the first Blu-ray player with access to internet content and downloads. Matsushita Electric Industrial, which owns the Panasonic brand, also plans to ship a BD-Live player this spring. The downloadable content will range from bonus movie scenes and trailers to interactive movie-based games. With Blu-ray established as the high definition optical disc standard, more consumers are ready to jump in and take advantage of everything the format offers. The free update also adds a "resume play" feature that enables users to restart Blu-ray discs and DVDs at the point where they stopped even if they take the disk out of the drive.
Fujifilm Dimatix, a producer of inkjet printheads for industrial applications, has announced that its cartridge-based Dimatix materials printer has been used in the world's first known demonstration of inkjet technology for manufacturing photovoltaic solar cells. Konarka Technologies, which demonstrated the use, has earlier developed and commercialised Power Plastic, a material that converts light to energy. The demonstration confirms that organic solar cells can be processed with printing technologies with little or no loss compared to clean room semiconductor technologies such as spin coating. Inkjet technology is very promising for fabricating photovoltaics because it is compatible with various substrates and does not require additional patterning.
KDDI said it would recall some 214,000 mobile phones that may overheat and blow up after several people were injured. KDDI, known for its ôauö brand, will replace battery packs of its W42K model, marketed only in Japan. The firm received 13 complaints from users of the cell phone, which is made by Kyocera, about the trouble. Three of the users suffered slight burns. The problem lies in the battery packs, which may short-circuit, generate smoke and blow up if their surface is damaged.
Kyocera plans to cut future battery orders from NEC Tokin and procure more batteries from Sanyo Electric Co, which now supplies roughly 80% of Kyocera's cell phone batteries, due to the injuries. Overheating batteries are hurting cell phone suppliers, even as handset makers press them to lower battery costs. Matsushita Electric Industrial is shouldering the cost of replacing 46 million batteries it made for Nokia in the fiscal year to March.
NEC Electronics will spend Ñ2 billion ($20 million) to increase its production of automotive semiconductors in Japan. The chip-making unit of NEC Corporation will build facilities at its unit in Oita in western Japan, that are scheduled for completion in December. The company is stepping up efforts to meet increasing demand for semiconductors used in automobiles.
Perry Capital has taken a small stake in NEC, underlining the US investment fundÆs determination to increase pressure on NEC Electronics. The stake, less than 5%, will allow the US fund to take its grievances directly to the parent company, which controls more than 70% of NEC Electronics, its listed subsidiary. Perry has a 6% stake in NEC Electronics. NEC rejected an offer from Perry in July to buy 25% of NEC Electronics for Ñ154.4 billion ($1.5 billion). The electronics group has refused to meet Perry while NEC Electronics, expecting to report its third year of losses in the year to the end of March, has refused to disclose information regarding its transactions with NEC. PerryÆs move comes as other investors, in an attempt to improve investor returns, have stepped up efforts to engage with the Japanese companies in which they invest.
The two regional fixed-line units of Japan' NTT Group are expected to comply with a request from the Communications Ministry to reduce the fees they charge other telecom firms to access their fibre-optic lines further. The two NTT companies are to submit applications that would lower the connection fee to about Ñ4,600 ($46) per month for NTT East, down roughly 10% from the current rate, and to about Ñ4,950 for NTT West, a reduction of around 2.5%. NTT East and NTT West both proposed in January more modest cuts to their connection fees, but a ministry telecoms panel recommended that the fees should be trimmed even more, saying that demand from competitors to access the lines may surpass the NTT firms' projections. The deeper cuts are based on higher demand projections. In return for complying with its request, the panel approved a special provision whereby if demand from other telecoms firms to access the lines is weaker than projections, the NTT firms can seek additional charges in fiscal 2011 and afterwards to cover their revenue shortfalls. Some of NTT's competitors, such Softbank, criticised the idea of leaving the door open to additional charges.
Fujitsu, a provider of IT and communications services, has completed an upgrade of the Japan-US Cable Network, a submarine fibre-optic cable system spanning the Pacific Ocean. Its technology allows the network to carry a capacity of more than 1.28 terabits per second (Tbps), doubling the original design capacity of 640Gbps, to support high-speed, high-capacity trans-Pacific communications. Fujitsu has replaced legacy optical communications equipment with its FLASHWAVE S650 series in six landing points, three each in the US and Japan.
Standard & PoorÆs has raised its long-term corporate credit rating (CCR) on Hanarotelecom to BBB- from BB with a positive outlook, after SK Telecom acquired 38.9% of Hanaro from the AIG-Newbridge-TVG consortium. S&P removed the company from positive watch and also raised its rating on the firmÆs senior unsecured debt to BBB- from BB. The ratings upgrade was based on an expected improvement in Hanaro's credit risk profile on anticipated support from the parent company and an improving financial risk profile, achieved through debt reduction in the past couple of years. The ratings agency said the positive outlook indicated its expectations that Hanaro's business has room to grow and that its financial risk profile could improve if significant synergies between SKT and Hanaro materialise.
Samsung Electronics has cut its sales forecast for this year, citing global economic woes. Its profit will still exceed last year's, helped by earnings growth in key areas such as chips, flat-panels and handsets. Global economic uncertainty is expected to continue this year, affecting the companyÆs management conditions. The world's largest memory chip-maker by revenue, now aims to achieve a 10% increase in 2008 sales, compared with a projection of a 15% increase made in January.
Access to Google.'s YouTube inside China was cut off after the Web site was flooded with graphic images from Tibet, including videos of burning trucks and monks being dragged through the streets by Chinese soldiers. Blocking Western web sites is routine in China, where the government has traditionally maintained a tight control on the flow of information. The new YouTube blackout is the latest in a string of clashes between the site and foreign governments in Asia and the Middle East that's forcing the company to grapple with the consequences of its increasingly global reach. YouTube remained inaccessible from China except to users who took extra technical steps to circumvent the ban. The site has been blocked in China several times before. YouTube's community guidelines state the site encourages free speech and defends everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. But the site also reserves the right to remove content it deems inappropriate, which gives it significant discretion when it comes to politically sensitive content.
A China Central Television (CCTV) programme has forced Focus Media to stop sending mobile spam advertisements after the screen-based advertiser was named as a major source of spam. The companyÆs shares dropped more than 25% after the programme. A subsidiary responsible for mobile advertisements set up a toll free number for people to report spam following allegations made in the report. It has also established an internal policy to ban sending mobile messages without a telephone user's permission. The database it used for the advertising was made up of information received by Focus Media during its normal course of business.
Fujian's Super Computing Center will be built and accessible before June 18, 2008. Its computing capability will reach 10,000 billion operations and will lead the country in super computing technology. As a platform for high quality computing services, the centre will improve the quality of education and science and technology innovation in Fujian Province. In addition, it will promote the development of the new, advanced technology industry and upgrade traditional industries.
China Unicom has said it is too early for it to overhaul its operations in anticipation of a restructuring of ChinaÆs telecommunications sector. The company is tipped to be one of the parties most affected by this move, but said it has yet to receive any notice from the government about a timetable for the restructuring. Rumours have indicated that Unicom's GSM mobile network could be merged with China Netcom Group Corporation, while its smaller CDMA mobile business could be sold to China Telecom Corporation. China Unicom has denied rumours that the company has stopped marketing activities for its CDMA business before a possible sale of assets to China Telecom. Unicom plans Rmb30.95 billion ($4.4 billion) in capital spending this year, up 20% from last year. Of this, 73% would be spent on expanding its GSM network.
China UnicomÆs net profit for the year to December reached Rmb9.29 billion ($1.3 billion), up from Rmb3.8 billion in 2006. Revenue increased 4.4% to Rmb99.54 billion. The mobile operator expects average revenue per user (ARPU) of its GSM and CDMA services to fall again this year because of China's adoption of the ôcalling-party-paysö system and because its newest customers are mostly less affluent people living in rural areas. ARPU for the GSM cellular business decreased to Rmb46 per month in 2007 from Rmb49.20 in 2006. ARPU for the CDMA service dropped to Rmb58.10 from Rmb65.80.
BeijingÆs plan to introduce unified manufacturing standards should stop the current flood of low quality batteries into the market. The quality of cellular batteries on the mainland has been under the spotlight since a man was killed last year when his telephone exploded. The government's plan to unify standards should help better regulate the market following rising public concerns about quality. The government estimates 30% of the telephone battery market is held by illegal manufacturers which sell products that have a greater chance of exploding. After the accident, mid- to high end batteries (in terms of price) sold well as telephone users were no longer willing to pay less for poor quality products.
Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) has revived plans to sell a strategic stake to outside investors. The Shanghai-based company has hired Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank to help sell a 20% stake for an expected $500 million. Even though it attracted avid interest from private equity firms, the process stalled in August last year because SMICÆs board was undecided about how to proceed. The company has been hammered in past years by continued low prices for the commoditised dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips, which have pushed chipmakers to expand into more sophisticated products. SMIC posted losses in both 2005 and 2006 because of low DRAM prices combined with high depreciation costs.
AcerÆs audited fourth-quarter net profit rose 89% to NT$2.4 billion ($80 million) from the same period a year ago, above a preliminary profit of NT$2.3 billion announced in February. For 2007, its audited net profit increased 27% year-on-year to NT$12.96 billion, as the company included results from its recently acquired US-based Gateway unit. It expects to ship 40% more notebook PCs this year compared with 2007, while its overall PC shipments should rise by 30%- 35%.
More than 30 government venues would offer free Wi-Fi internet access before June. Introducing free Wi-Fi internet access to public places is part of the governmentÆs plan to develop more mobile financial and banking services. To consolidate Hong Kong's position as a leader in tourism and logistics, industry players are encouraged to make use of wireless and mobile technologies to provide tourists and logistics management with more useful electronic information. The government would continue to introduce new and innovative services for driving commerce and economic development in Hong Kong.
Hutchison WhampoaÆs struggling 3G mobile networks unit achieved an elusive profitability target last year and for the first time recorded positive core earnings. The companyÆs global 3G networks, the largest of which are in the U.K. and Italy, have been a drag on earnings and the companyÆs share price for years, and have been offset only by asset disposals at more profitable divisions. HutchisonÆs net profit increased 53% to HK$30.6 billion ($3.9 billion), boosted by a HK$35.8billion gain from a subsidiaryÆs sale of its stake in IndiaÆs fourth largest mobile phone network to Vodafone of the UK. Ebitda earnings at HutchisonÆs perennially loss-making 3G unit, amounted to HK$1.2 billion in 2007, against a loss of HK$7.5 billion a year earlier.
KoreaÆs Samsung Electronics plans to build a $670 million plant to make mobile phone handsets in northern Vietnam. The world's second largest handset maker has been pushing for the Vietnam plant for nearly a year and submitted the proposal to authorities in Bac Ninh province last month. Once they fill in all the necessary papers, the company will grant the investment license right away. The company has chosen to set up in Vietnam because of the countryÆs cheap labour.
Revenue at the Indian operations of Dell Inc. grew 60% to $700 million in 2007. At present, Dell follows its traditional model of selling computers over the Internet or by telephone in India, but the company will soon announce plans to establish retail operations in the country.
Singapore-based biomedical firm Veredus Laboratories has successfully completed trials and begun marketing a new device that can detect more than 10 influenza strains, including the avian flu. The chip, no bigger than a fingernail, can detect various flu strains within two hours in a single test, compared with tests available in the current market which require multiple tests to be carried out. This test can detect flu strains at the start of the infection, and can diagnose not just current viruses but also mutations. The chip can also be modified from its present form to be used in the detection of cancers, infectious diseases and even bio-hazardous material.
Auction.ph, an online shopping mall in the Philippines, continues to expand its baseline numbers reaching almost 1.2 million registered members as of March 2008 and an average of 6,000 posted items daily. The e-commerce site plans to further expand these numbers in 2008 through exciting online events and pro-seller promotions. Double Bingo Mania is an online game wherein buyers get a chance to win premium items for a minimum purchase of Ps500 ($12). Users also get a chance to win e-money instantly if they complete a bingo line. Sellers or æcybermerchantsÆ would find it more attractive to sell their items on Auction.ph with pro-seller programmes that subsidise item pricing.
In a move that will trigger lower phone call charges, India's telecom regulator will remove a levy imposed on service providers to fund rural connectivity. Access deficit charges put an unfair burden on new entrants and distort market conditions, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said, referring to the technical term used for the levy that has been imposed since 2003. It is also a source of arbitrage and thereby results in a gray market for international calls. Domestic calls will be freed from the levy paid to state run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) from April, while international calls will be freed from September. In the meantime, the levy on international calls has been reduced to just 50 paise (little over one 1 cent) from 1 rupee (3 cents) per call. The watchdog also called for the government to pay an annual subsidy of Rp20 billion for three years to BSNL for phones installed by it in rural areas before April 1, 2002.
Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has completed the acquisition of 160.4 million shares, representing a 3.9% stake, in TaiwanÆs Far EasTone Telecommunications. The payment was made in the form of 980.3 million shares in its subsidiary New Century InfoComm Tech (NCIC) , or 100% of this company. The NCIC shares are held through InfoCom Holding Company (InfoCom) and SingTel Taiwan (STTL). The consideration payable for the NCIC shares will be satisfied in the form of new shares to be issued by FET at an exchange ratio of approximately 6.11 shares of NCIC for each new share.