ò Softbank revealed that it has no plans to sell a stake in Yahoo Japan, a move that is seen as possibly blocking efforts by Yahoo to increase its holding. Sources said Softbank's rejection may prevent Yahoo from increasing its stake in the operator of Japan's most-visited web site, as only about 25 percent of the stock trades publicly. Softbank and Yahoo control a combined 74.5 percent in Softbank, just under a Tokyo exchange rule limiting majority shareholders to 75 percent ownership.
ò According to Felica Networks, the number of people with so-called mobile wallet phones in Japan is predicted to go beyond the 50 million mark by early 2009. FeliCa Networks is the joint venture of contactless chip supplier Sony Corp. and NTT DoCoMo. Mobile wallet phones were introduced in 2004 and have garnered around 25 million unit sales to date for the three network operators NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank Mobile. FeliCa administers the platform used to load and manage secure payments and related applications onto the handsets.
ò Nortel and Toshiba Corporation announced an agreement for the joint development of mobile WiMAX base stations for the Japanese and global markets. The base stations will be based on Nortel's broadband wireless technology and Toshiba's amplifier and miniaturisation technology. The companies said the new WiMAX base stations will offer lower power consumption and feature miniaturized equipment. Under the agreement, the base stationÆs radio module will be developed by Toshiba, with Nortel developing the digital module for the base stations. Nortel has extensive WiMAX R&D capabilities and expertise in OFDM and MIMO technologies that support high-speed wireless broadband communications. Using their respective strengths, Nortel and Toshiba said they will develop a range of small, power efficient and cost effective WiMAX base stations.
ò Canon and Toshiba disclosed plans to postpone the launch of next-generation flat-panel televisions known as SED TVs. Earlier, the two Japanese companies had planned to introduce Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display TVs sometime between October and December this year. Canon attributed the delay to "prolonged litigation now under way in the U.S." Canon said it also needed to reduce the mass-production costs of SED TVs because the prices of other types of flat-panel TVs already on the market ù the LCD and plasma-display models ù are sharply declining. Toshiba said the decision was made because Canon will not be able to provide SED panels according to the original schedule. Canon and Toshiba said they couldnÆt predict any specific time frame for the launch of SED TVs at the moment. In 2004, Canon and Toshiba formed SED, with capital of 10.5 billion yen ($86.2 million), in order to release SED TVs in Japan in the fourth quarter of 2007 before launching mass production in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
ò KDDI announced that it is developing a phone that can send emails and work with office documents; a development that observers say will allow it to compete with Research In Motion's BlackBerry device. A KDDI official said that it would make an announcement on the release of a smartphone even as no manufacturer has been named yet. Rivals NTT DoCoMo Inc., Softbank Corp. and Willcom Inc. already offer phones for business users as a response to the decline in sales from voice calls. Market leader DoCoMo offers the Blackberry and a device from Taiwan's High Tech Computer Corp., while Softbank, owner of Japan's third-largest mobile network, sells handsets from High Tech and Nokia Oyj. KDDI said it will start selling 15 handset models next month, including seven models that can receive digital television broadcasts.
ò Sharp announced that it will invest about 500 billion yen ($4.1 billion) to build a liquid crystal display panel factory in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. Sources said the factory, which is expected to go on stream in 2009, aims to manufacture 40- to 60-inch panels for large-screen televisions with production efficiency exceeding that of Sharp's renowned liquid crystal panel factory in Mie Prefecture.
ò According to its CEO, NHN Corp, South Korea's top web portal, may seek to acquire an internet company. The same official is being quoted by media sources for stating that NHN may even be acquired by a rival if it will boost the companyÆs chance to be a global player. Industry sources said NHN is looking to expand its global presence through acquisitions and partnerships. Currently, NHN, with market capitalisation of 7.5 trillion won ($8.1 billion), is more than 50 percent owned by foreign investors. The company operates the Naver search engine, the countryÆs dominant web portal, which accounts for 77 percent of internet-related searches in the country.
ò VoiceSignal, the leading provider of speech solutions for mobile devices, announced that Pantech Group has entered into a new three-year strategic license agreement which gives Pantech the ability to develop voice enabled mobile phones using all of VoiceSignal's applications. Pantech has been licensing VoiceSignal VSuite software since 2004. The present agreement, however, gives the company the right to develop handsets with all VoiceSignal's applications, including VSuite Ultra Compact, VSuite 3.1, VSpeak, and VoiceMode.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò According to industry sources, Israeli start-up MusicGenome Inc. has secured a five-year strategic cooperation agreement with South KoreaÆs CJ Group in a deal valued at $10 million. Under the agreement, MusicGenome artificial intelligence (AI) technology, which is for predicting consumer entertainment tastes, will be integrated with CJÆs services. MusicGenomeÆs technology is based on a patent that combines software and music to predict a userÆs taste and offers suitable entertainment content with 80 percent accuracy.
ò Webzen of South Korea announced the successful launching of its MMORPG Soul of the Ultimate Nation in China. Industry sources noted that The9 had earlier paid $13 million for the rights to have the game initiated in China, with the value of the deal seen as the largest single export transaction in Korea's online game history. Once the game is running in China, a 22 percent royalty based on revenues will be paid to Webzen for three years.
ò Sony officially confirmed that it will release in South Korea the 80 GB version of Sony's PlayStation 3 video game console. According to Sony, the device will be sold for 518,000 won ($580). Industry observers see the announcement as unexpected for Sony, which is known for rolling out new products in its Japanese home turf before offering them to international markets. Sony justified the introduction of the higher-capacity system in South Korea due to the prevalence of broadband internet access.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò CDC Games, a business unit of CDC Corporation announced its completion of the previously announced strategic investment in MGame Corporation, one of South Korea's leading developers of online games. CDC Games is a pioneer of the "free-to-play, pay-for-merchandise" model for online games in China, a very popular licensed free-to-play game in China. Through this equity investment, CDC Games said it has expanded its relationship from being not just a licensee to MGame's largest external shareholder and has obtained exclusive distribution rights in China for MGame's next Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) titled Wind Forest Fire Mountain (WFFM). In addition to the acquisition of the exclusive distribution rights for WFFM in China, CDC Games has extended the license of Yulgang to 2010. The company said this latest investment is part of its previously announced CDC Games Studio, a wholly owned subsidiary of CDC Games supported by up to US$100 million in investment funding. This investment in MGame is also the latest in a series of steps taken by CDC Games to strengthen CDC's set of jointly owned games. The CDC family of companies includes CDC Software, which is focused on enterprise software applications and services, CDC Mobile, which is focused on mobile applications, CDC Games, which is focused on online games, and China.com, which is focused on portals for the greater China markets. CDC Games is one of the market leaders of online and mobile games in China with over 50 million registered users.
ò Officials from leading Chinese online publisher The9 Limited announced that the company has received an equity investment by Electronic Arts. The two companies also disclosed that a licensing agreement that will enable The9 to become the exclusive publisher for soccer title FIFA Online in mainland China. Sources said the equity investment is placed at about $67 million, and will see Electronic Arts acquire around 15 percent of the common shares of The9. With the deal, industry observers said it is not clear how this Electronic ArtsÆ equity investment is going to affect The9Æs relationship with Vivendi, whose World of WarCraft currently represents the vast majority of the companyÆs business. In a related development, The9 Limited announced that its wholly owned subsidiary has entered into an agreement with G10 Entertainment Korea Corp (G10), an online game developer in Korea, for an exclusive license to operate Audition 2, an advanced casual dancing online game, in mainland China. The term of the license is for three years from the commercial launch date of the game in mainland China. The9 also has the exclusive right of first refusal for the license of Audition 3 and two other developed online games owned or distributed by G10. Audition 2 is the sequel to Audition, a 3D leisure dancing online competition game with rich music elements.
ò Shanda, the Chinese online game provider, announced a 13.1 percent climb quarter-over-quarter in its total net revenues and a growth of 55.9 percent year-over-year to Rmb532.3 million ($69.5 million) as part of its unaudited financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2007. The Chinese online game provider ascribed the surge to online game revenues hitting a record high, with its online game revenues in the first quarter of 2007 posting a 12.2 percent increase quarter- over-quarter to Rmb505 million ($66 million). Revenues from MMORPGs in the first quarter of 2007 grew 9.5 percent quarter- over-quarter to Rmb414 million ($54.1 million), which stands also for 77.8 percent of its total revenues. The company declared a gross profit of Rmb347 million ($45.3 million).
ò Hurray!, a mobile value-added services company, announced a 2.2 percent quarter-over-quarter decline in its revenues to $16.6 million, as part of its unaudited financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2007. The company posted total wireless value-added services revenues of $14.9 million for the first quarter of 2007, a decline of 1.1 percent from $15.1 million in the previous quarter. Recorded music revenues, which represent revenues of the company's controlled music companies Hurray! Freeland and Huayi Brothers Music, were down 15.9 percent to $1.5 million, from $1.8 million in the previous quarter. Total gross profit was $5.4 million for the first quarter of 2007, representing growth of 2.6 percent as compared with $5.3 million for the previous quarter and a decline of 10.2 percent as compared with $6.1 million for the first quarter of 2006. It posted a net income of $1 million for the first quarter of 2007, a drop of 38.9 percent as compared to $1.6 million for the previous quarter.
ò Linktone, a mobile value-added services firm, reported its unaudited financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2007, indicating revenues of $14.2 million, compared with $14 million in the fourth quarter of 2006 and US$23 million in the first quarter of 2006. The company also declared a GAAP net loss of $3.4 million, compared with a net income of $0.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2006 and $2.3 million in the first quarter of 2006.
ò Symantec and China's Huawei Technologies announced forming of a joint venture company to develop and distribute security and storage appliances to global telecommunications carriers and enterprises. Following required regulatory and governmental approvals, the joint venture is seen as closing late in the calendar year. Under the deal, Symantec will also contribute $150 million toward the joint venture's growth and expansion. In the new company, Huawei will own 51 percent of the joint venture and Symantec 49 percent. Huawei will contribute its telecommunications storage and security businesses including its integrated supply chain and integrated product development management practices. With the agreement, the new company will have access to Huawei's intellectual property licenses, research and development capabilities, manufacturing expertise and engineering talent. Taiwan
ò The Industrial Technology Research Institute, a government-funded research institute in Taiwan announced the opening of a patent web site for an October fire sale of IT patents. The site aims to match international sellers with Taiwanese buyers, with the web site targeting the collection of patents for a variety of electronics technologies. They include WiMax high-speed wireless Internet connectivity, LCD-TV (liquid crystal display television), 3G and other telecommunications, and LED (light emitting diode), as well as a host of audio/visual technologies, including HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. The research group is also encouraging companies globally to sell their patents to Taiwanese companies through the auction.
ò Sony Network Taiwan (So-net Taiwan), an ISP set up by Sony in Taiwan, announced the introduction of the Chinese-language version of BlogDeco, a web portal to provide free widgets for decorating blogs, from KAYAC, the operator of BlogDeco. According to So-Net, the Japanese-language BlogDeco attracts 20 million visits a day on average, with a portion coming from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
ò Industry sources reported that Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) chairman Tan Hochen and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates have signed a letter of intent to form a strategic alliance between CHT and Microsoft. The two companies said the four major areas covered by the agreement include digital life, services for small-and medium-sized Taiwan-based businesses in Taiwan and China, NGOSS (new-generation operations systems and software) and public-benefit projects for decreasing the digital gap between urban and remote areas in Taiwan.
ò Bharti Airtel, one of India's leading private telecom firms, announced a tie-up with Hong Kong-based PCCW Global. The two companies said they have signed an agreement for the tie-up that would enable them to deliver greater coverage, seamless user experience and reliable technology to their customers. According to an Airtel official, the partnership with PCCW is in line with his companyÆs strategy to extend the global reach of its customers and provide them a secure, consistent and reliable connection. Industry observers see the partnership as enabling Bharti to offer world-class services and end-to-end communication solutions. PCCW Global is the worldwide business unit of PCCW Ltd, one of Asia's leading players in information and communications technologies.
ò Industry sources said that with the completion of the sale of Hutchison TelecomÆs Indian assets, shareholders of the Hong Kong based firm are in for a rich dividend, valued at about $4.1 billion. Sources said, however that most of this dividend would go to promoter Li Ka-Shing. Earlier, Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd (HTIL) announced that its board of directors has declared a special cash dividend equivalent to $12.9 per American Depository Share (ADS), payable on June 29 to shareholders who hold the companyÆs shares as of June 8. The company said the special cash dividend will be distributed from the proceeds of the transaction with Vodafone, which was completed on May 8. According to the company, the total dividend is approximately HK$32.2 billion ($4.1 billion).
ò According to officials, a programme to provide wireless internet services in government premises has been approved by the Hong Kong Legislative Council for improving internet services. According to the Hong KongÆs Deputy Chief Information Officer, the program valued at some HK$217.6 million (US$27.8 million) is expected to bring benefits to citizens, the commercial sector, the information and communications technology (ICT) industry and Hong Kong as a whole. Under the programme, Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) facilities will be set up at about 350 government premises for free use by the public in the coming two years. By 2008, Wi-Fi services will be set up in priority sites, such as libraries and community halls.
ò According to its corporate communications manager, Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel), has denied any interest in buying a minority stake in Warid Telecom. Company sources, however, indicated that Warid, the third largest cellular company in Pakistan, is in talks with various foreign telecom companies to sell its minority stake. Some sources said that companies like BritainÆs Vodafone Group and other big names have approached Warid. Industry analysts said that many foreign telecom mobile companies want to enter the Pakistani telecom market through existing players. In a separate development, SingTel said that it has commercially launched its HSDPA upgrade. The service dubbed the Broadband on Mobile will be initially available in the Orchard Road and the commercial business district areas, with download speeds of up to 3.6 Mbps being assured to users.
ò Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced its completion of the implementation of electronic ticketing for all flights throughout its network. The completion has been achieved more than seven months ahead of a deadline set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for the world's airlines to adopt the system. With this development, PAL becomes the first Philippine carrier to be fully enabled in e-ticketing, a technology that does away with paper tickets.