A week in tech, May 7-13

A roundup of the latest tech news.

ò Toshiba Corp said it expects its operating profit to more than double over the next three years as it cuts costs, ramps up capacity for its semiconductors and seeks nuclear plant orders. It also expects capital spending to amount to a cumulative 2.2 trillion yen (US$21.4 billion) in the three years to March 2011, of which more than 1 trillion yen (US$9.7 billion) would go to its semiconductors. Toshiba is racing to build two new NAND flash memory plants and expand capacity to build chips, hoping to beat price falls with economies of scale. It also aims to win 33 nuclear plant orders worldwide by 2015 and post a return on its acquisition of U.S. nuclear power firm Westinghouse in 13 years, one year earlier than previously stated. Cost cuts throughout its operations, which range from refrigerators to MRI machines, will be key to raising profitability.

ò Japan is considering a copyright fee for buyers of iPods and similar portable audio players, as well as hard disc video recorders. A panel will weigh the proposal, which was made by the culture agency in an effort to resolve a long-running row between copyright holders and gadget manufacturers, who oppose the charge. Japan already charges such fees on Minidisc and DVD recorders. Local media said the panel aims to make a decision this year on whether to introduce the new charge by 2010. A majority of the committee members are reportedly in favor of a levy, which is expected to be several hundred yen and added to the retail price.

ò LG Electronics Co. said that it plans to release its designer "Prada" handset in Japan next month. The company said it held a pre-launch ceremony for the touch-screen phone at the Prada Epicenter store in Tokyo on Thursday with officials from LG and Prada in attendance. The phone will be offered exclusively to subscribers of NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan's largest mobile carrier, starting in early June, according to LG Electronics. The model developed through joint efforts between LG and Prada, a renowned Italian fashion company, has been a huge hit in South Korean and European markets. The Prada phone is equipped with a touch-sensitive liquid-crystal display measuring 3 inches diagonally, a 2-megapixel camera and other multimedia functions. The Japanese version will include global roaming capabilities.

ò Japanese Internet and telecoms group Softbank Corp would seek shareholder approval for a preferred share issue. The Nikkei business daily reported earlier that Softbank had begun preparatory work for a potential issue of higher-dividend preferred shares in a bid to cater to the large number of its individual shareholders.

ò Softbank Corp. said its operating profit for the past year to March rose 19.6 percent to a record 324.3 billion yen (US$3.1 billion) due to the continued expansion of its mobile phone subscriber base and a strong online advertising business. Softbank is the parent company of Japan's third-largest cellphone carrier, Softbank Mobile, and of the country's largest online media business, Yahoo Japan Corp. Yahoo Japan, of which Softbank owns 41 percent, reported last month that its operating profit rose 17.5 percent for the past fiscal year.

ò NTT Communications (NTT Com) announced that its global data network services have won the Platinum Award for ranking highest in terms of overall customer satisfaction in the latest "Voice of the Customer: Global Data VPN" report. The report was issued on April 24, 2008 by U.K. Telemark Services. The company earned its first-ever Platinum Award by receiving the highest cumulative score overall. Eight categories are measured by the survey: Indispensable to Customer, Top 10 Customer Priorities, Meeting Requirements, Pricing, Network Installation, Network Operation, Customer Support and Billing. NTT Com also was presented a Diamond Award for its top ranking in Meeting Requirements.

ò Baidu reported its visitor traffic keeps a fast growing momentum in Japan to reach 713,000 person-times in February 2008. The China's largest search portal has set up its Japan branch named "Baidu.jp" earlier this year, in an attempt to further expand its global share. Currently, it offers a series of search services in the country, ranging from Web search, image search, video search, to blog search. It has not come up with any specific plans for MP3 music search yet, which all depends on market environment, said the company. In Japanese search engine market, major players include Yahoo Japan who keeps the leading presence, in competition with Google Inc.


ò Korea Telecom (KT) has selected Tektronix Communications, a provider of communications network management and diagnostics solutions, to test the deployment of new call-related services on their intelligent network. GeoProbe, part of Tektronix' Unified Assurance suite of applications for management of next generation converged networks, will be used by KT to monitor, manage, diagnose and troubleshoot issues before, during and after the launch of new services over their intelligent network.

ò Young, tech-savvy South Koreans are making coupon clipping a thing of the past and turning to their mobile phones instead. Some of the fastest-growing mobile phone services in the country let retailers send discount coupons and users send gift certificates for anything from lattes to movie tickets through their handsets. The merchandise vouchers have a barcode embedded in the message. Users show the coupon on the screen and retailers scan the barcode to apply the discount. SK Telecom rolled out a service a little more than a year ago called a "gifticon" that allows users to send gift vouchers for items such as convenience store merchandise and pizzas via mobile phones. The sender is billed for the cost of the goods. The main users of the new coupon service with the embedded barcodes are usually in their 20s and younger and often use Internet functions on their mobile phones for communication, according the industry sources.

ò Hynix Semiconductor Inc. plans to buy up to 10 percent stake in Taiwan's Promos Technologies Inc. to boost their existing partnership. The terms of the equity purchase are yet to be finalized. The South Korean chipmaker reported an operating loss of 505.1 billion won (US$508.7 million) for the first quarter largely due to a slump in semiconductor chip prices. The two companies have concluded their months-long talks to extend their partnership further into advanced processing technology.

Alternative Energy
ò DC Chemical Co., Ltd, a Korean chemicals producer, has signed an agreement with Yingli Green Energy for the latterÆs third polysilicon supply agreement. Under the terms of agreement, DC Chemical will supply polysilicon with a value of approximately US$39 million to Yingli Green Energy. The delivery period started in April 2008 and will end in December 2008.

ò Everlight Electronics will begin operations in Korea once again. As Nichia, Osram and other global LED makers nested, Korea is predicted to become a venue for a fierce competition. Market observers said that Everlight has completed the preparation to establish Everlight Korea and has already begun the marketing activities targeting home appliance makers in Korea. Everlight is the sixth in establishing its local operation in Korea. Already, Japan's Nichia, the world's largest LED maker, Germany's Osram, U.S. Agilent and Netherlands' Lumileds are operating in Korea. Indeed, Everlight has entered the Korean market by investing in Luxpia, a Korean LED maker. However, it is the first time for the company to begin operation directly in Korea.

ò ASUSTeK Computer Inc. (ASUS) has recently laid the foundation for a 3 billion yuan (US$429.3 million) factory in Jianxi Province in the Chinese mainland. In the preliminary stage the factory in JiÆan city will produce copper wire yarn and computer accessories. It will produce mainboards and assemble notebook computers in the future. Annual production at the factory is expected to reach 10 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion). ASUS has a global staff of more than 100,000. Revenue for 2007 reached US$6.9 billion.

ò Shares of China Unicom and China Netcom Group Corp (Hong Kong) surged as investors raised their exposure to the stocks on hopes the long-delayed telecom industry restructuring would finally start on May 17. There has been speculation in the markets that China will announce a restructuring plan for the telecom industry on May 17, coinciding with World Telecommunications Day.

ò China Mobile has invested 14.2 billion yuan (US$2.03 billion) so far to install a 3G cellphone network based on homegrown TD-SCDMA in eight Chinese cities. The parent firm has installed 14,300 base stations, including 3,400 in Beijing and 2,600 in Shanghai. On restructuring of the Chinese telecommunications industry, preparatory work is under way but the company has yet to receive official notice of the start date.

ò Huawei Technologies, a telecoms equipment maker, is mulling the sale of a multi-billion dollar stake in its mobile devices unit to a foreign investor. The potential sale is at an early stage and could be among the largest foreign investments in a Chinese firm. The move could help the company navigate the North American market. Huawei plans to invite strategic investors and private equity companies later this month to bid for a significant stake in the business, with a foreign investor possibly taking a majority shareholding in it.

ò Huawei Technologies Co. targets to lift its mobile phone and data card sales volume by 150 percent to 50 million units in 2008, in a bid to replace ZTE Corporation as the largest mobile phone manufacturer across China. Huawei sold 20 million mobile phones and data cards in total last year, compared with 31 million units of ZTE. The company is about to outsource part of its mobile phone manufacturing contracts to Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. With a broad range of equipments and solutions, Huawei has witnessed a rapid growth in its business and gained reputation around the world, where carriers such as Vodafone and British Telecom have chosen the company to be their trusted partner.

ò China Mobile is now aggressively brewing it's A-share listing. However, there is still no specific timetable for the listing. The return of China Mobile will speed up China's telecom industry long-waited restructuring. It is rumored that China Mobile will merge with small fixed-line firm China Tietong. Fixed-line giant China Telecom will acquire China Unicom's CDMA network, while the remainder of Unicom will merge with fixed-line carrier China Netcom and operate a GSM network. China Satcom will join a national aerospace consortium.

ò China Telecom plays dominantly broadband market in Guangdong with up to 63.65 percent of respondents of the latest survey say they were subscribers of China Telecom. The rest of the market was grabbed by Great Wall Broadband, eHome, and Zhujiang Broadband, with a market share of 9.16 percent, 18.08 percent, and 9.11 percent, respectively. There were no respondents using the broadband Internet access service of China Netcom, the biggest rival of China Telecom.

ò China Mobile has built the world's highest internet cafe in Tibet, mainly aimed at meeting the robust communications demand of China's Olympic torch relay team across Mount Qomolangma. China Mobile has built a business office and Internet cafe at an altitude of 5,200 meters at Mount Qomolangma base camp to provide mobile services and Internet services to government officials, mountain climbing members and journalists. The internet cafe and the business hall serve 40 to 50 customers each day. In addition, China Mobile has also expanded the bandwidth in Tibet, in a bid to guarantee the staff at many of the work units on the Everest areas can access the Internet smoothly.

ò The five-star Internet Data Center (IDC) that is funded by China Netcom was recently established at the company's Guangzhou Scientific City's International Communications Center. This signals the improvement of China's Netcom's IDC service regulation and brand value and marking a key step for the company in entering the information services outsourcing field. The Guangzhou Scientific City is one of Chine Netcom's eight five-star IDCs, covering an area of 22,800sqm and accommodating China Netcom Group's international communications center and its Guangdong Branch's network management and operations center. Multiple internationally well-known companies, such as Hong Kong's PCCW Limited, have already settled in the City.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò Giant Interactive Group Inc., a Chinese leading online game operator and developer, announced that the peak concurrent players of Giant Online have exceeded 344,000. Immediately after the release of the news, Giant Interactive's stock rose 9.31 percent, and closed at US$17.15 on May 5, 2008. Its market cap reached US$4.41 billion, far more exceeding Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd.'s US$2.61 billion and The9 Limited's US$637.39 million. Giant Online started an open beta test on March 28. Its peak concurrent players exceeded 237,000 on the very day. Previously, the company's first proprietary online game ZT Online has saw its peak concurrent players exceed 2.1 million.

ò Sales of Linux software in China reached 38 million yuan (US$5.4 million) in the first quarter of 2008, representing an increase of 22.6 percent form the comparable period one year ago. In contrast to the slight decline of Unix operating system, Linux's proportion climbed 0.2 percent, underscoring the vitality of Linux in this emerging country. Linux market has been penetrating to the vast northwest and southwest areas. In the east and north China sectors, Linux software vendors have been taping into the secondary and tertiary cities based on their achievement made in the first-level cities.

Mobile/ Wireless
ò Nokia announced the launch of the Nokia 6122c mobile phone model, exclusively available for China Mobile Communications Corp. (CMCC), which increases Nokia's commitment to the China market. Based on S60 and Symbian OS, the Nokia 6122c offers CMCC customers rich entertainment features and powerful applications scalable ability. With CMCC keys specifically dedicated to the internet, customers have faster and easier access to all of CMCC's Internet services and contents.

ò Alibaba.com Ltd.'s net profit more than doubled in the first quarter from a year ago as the company attracted more paying customers. Net profit rose to 300.7 million yuan (US$43 million) from 142.1 million yuan (US$20.3 million) in the same period in 2007. Sales grew 53.2 percent to 680.1 million yuan while its registered users climbed 37.3 percent to 29.7 million. The credit crisis and the looming slowdown of the U.S. economy are creating pressure on the global trade environment. Nearly 84 percent of the company's registered users were from China, which recorded a 36.4 percent increase to 24.8 million. Its paying customers grew 35.6 percent to 327,118.

ò Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) Hong Kong representative Chen Wai-yui says she hopes to confirm the cooperation with strategic investors in the first half of the year. SMIC has enough capital for cooperation with strategic investors. The discussion to bring in strategic equity investors or convertible tool investors has seen progress at this moment. As at the end of March 2008, the company has cash on hand of US$506 million. In the first quarter, SMIC reported a 10 percent rise in sales in the U.S.

ò Delta Electronics, Inc., announced that its consolidated sales revenues for April 2008 totaled NT$11.8 billion (US$385 million), representing a 11 percent increase as compared to NT$10.6 billion (US$346 million) for April 2007 and a 2 percent decrease as compared to NT$12.0 billion (US$392 million) for March 2008. The Company's cumulative consolidated sales revenues from January to April in 2008 were NT$45.3 billion (US$1.5 million), a 20 percent increase as compared to NT$37.8 billion (US$1.2 billion) for the same period last year.

ò Taitien Electronics Co., Ltd. recently claimed that it is aggressively preparing to certify its OCXO (oven controlled crystal oscillator) products for new applications such as the femtocell, a small cellular base station originally known as access point base station. Taitien chairman Song Sheng-tai claimed that very few crystal component makers in Asia now produce OCXO products and his company aims to win a 20 percent global share (compared with 3 percent currently) in the near future.

ò Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) has no timetable yet for building a 450mm fabrication plant. The company issued a statement to clarify media reports which followed a joint press release by TSMC, Intel Corp., and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. on the need to target a transition to 450 mm-sized wafers starting in 2012. The joint statement does not represent a three-way alliance. Instead, it points out that the three companies share a commitment to continue working with the International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI).

ò MediaTek Inc. said its consolidated sales in April rose to NT$8.33 billion (US$271.8 million) from NT$6.12 billion (US$199.7 million) a year earlier. For the first four months of the year, consolidated sales stood at NT$27.58 billion (US$899.8 million) against NT$21.04 billion (US$686.5 million) a year earlier.

ò ARC International, a provider of consumer intellectual property (IP) to OEM and semiconductor companies, has signed a licensing agreement with TM Technology. A subsidiary of Etron, one of the top Taiwanese fabless design houses that specialize in memory products, TM Technology will use its ARC license to create a new system-on-chip (SoC) for multimedia storage applications. ARC became known for improving consumersÆ multimedia experiences with high quality audio and video content that is captured, shared, and played on a wide variety of devices. ARC is one of the suppliers to portable multimedia storage companies, which is a key reason why TM Technology chose to adopt an ARC-Based solution for their SoC.

ò Loss at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.Æs mainland China factory in Shanghai expanded to NT$529 million (US$17.6 million) in the first quarter, compared with loss of NT$127 million (US$4.2 million) in the same period of last year. Throughout last year, the mainland factory lost NT$957 million (US$31.9 million), higher than loss of NT$637 million (US$21 million). Industry watchers ascribed the loss primarily to growing maturity of foundry market and a more conservative global economy this year than last.

Hong Kong

ò Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. (HTIL) said its profit attributable to equity shareholders amounted to HK$310 million (US$39.8 million) for the first quarter of 2008, compared with a loss of HK$236 million (U$5.9 million) in the year-earlier period. The international mobile and fixed-line telecommunications provider, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa, said the profit was driven primarily by performance of its operations in Israel and continuing strength of the New Israeli shekel to the Hong Kong dollar. Its global customer base, excluding Ghana and Vietnam, increased 6.2 percent during the quarter to more than 10 million, while 3G customers totaled 1.9 million as of the end of the quarter, the company said. Israel's second largest cellphone operator Partner Communications Co which is 52.2 percent owned by HTIL, had reported n Monday a 24 percent rise in first-quarter net income.

ò Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd (HTIL) is seeking acquisition opportunities in Asia and has conducted negotiations with several privately held telecoms companies, the South China Morning Post reports, citing chief executive Dennis Lui Pok-man. The firm's top priority was its mobile assets operating GSM network, followed by its 3G mobile service and fixed-line assets that complement its mobile businesses. Having sold its Indian mobile unit to British-based Vodafone Group last year, HTIL is sitting on a large cash pile of HK$32 billion (US$4 billion) and is keen to seek new growth engines.

Information Technology
ò Unisys HK announced that it has signed an IT outsourcing services contract with Hong Kong Judiciary, the institution responsible for the administration of justice in Hong Kong. Unisys was awarded the five-year contract, with an additional two-year option. The new contract, signed in end last year, replaces an earlier contract between Unisys and the Judiciary, which had been in place since 2001. Under this new contract, Unisys will deliver IT outsourcing services, including ongoing application support and maintenance, network infrastructure, office automation and other IT services.

ò First Pacific Company said the first quarter net profit of its 23.6 percent-owned Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company soared 21 percent to 10.4 billion pesos (US$246 million) for the three months ended March 31, 2008. The core net income increased 11 percent to 9.3 billion pesos (US$219 million) from 8.4 billion pesos (US$198 million) in the same period last year. The consolidated net debt down to US$406 million, while the gross debt has declined to US$1.6 billion.

ò Nokia Siemens Networks has been selected to modernize the existing core networks for Telkomsel, a large mobile services provider in Indonesia. Under the three-year frame work agreement, Nokia Siemens Networks will deploy the latest generation soft-switch across Indonesia. This solution will help Telkomsel evolve to an all IP architecture and enable the operator to offer new services such as Voice over IP to their users. The network expansion will increase Telkomsel's network capacity and grow the current delivery of telecommunications services of 52 million subscribers.

ò Indonesian telephone carrier PT Bakrie Telecom Tbk said its net profit in the first quarter to March jumped 68.4 percent, aided by strong sales. Net profit rose to 27.38 billion rupiahs ($2.97 million) from 16.25 billion rupiahs (US$2 million) a year ago. Sales surged 96 percent to 531.20 billion rupiahs (US$57 million), while operating profit rose to 53.50 billion rupiahs (US$6 million) from 50.94 billion rupiahs (US$6 million). Sales surged as the number of Bakrie Telecom subscribers also increased. Bakrie Telecom, a subsidiary of Bakrie Brothers, provides fixed wireless telephone services. The company has earmarked capital expenditure of US$600 million until 2010 to expand the company's telephone network.

ò CIMB has downgraded Indonesia's telecommunication sector to underweight from neutral on concerns about rising competition in the industry. CIMB had also cut the recommendation on Indonesia's largest telecommunication company, PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk to underweight from neutral and reduced its target price to 8,100 rupiah (US$0.879). The investment bank also cut the target price for Indonesia's second-largest mobile operator, PT Indosat Tbk , to 5,900 rupiah (US$0.64).

ò Indonesia's PT Natrindo Telepon Selular, the latest entrant into the country's rapidly growing telecoms sector, is confident of signing on more than one million mobile phone users by the end of the year. Natrindo, which launched operations under the brand name Axis, plans to corner 10 percent of the market share in three years with its low tariffs. Saudi Telecom Co., the largest Arab telecom firm by market value, controls 51 percent of Natrindo and Malaysia's biggest mobile phone operator, Maxis Communications Bhd., holds 44 percent.

ò PT Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk said its first quarter net profit rose 109 percent from a year ago and 287 percent from the preceding quarter on a bigger subscriber base and outgoing minutes of usage. The company booked a net profit of 368 billion rupiah (US$39.9 million) in the quarter. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 47 percent year-on-year or 4 percent quarter-on-quarter to 1.1 trillion rupiahs (US$118 million). Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) International Indonesia Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Etisalat, holds 16 percent, leaving the investing public with a 0.2 percent combined stake in Excelcomindo.

ò NTS plans to increase the number of its base stations to 3,700 by the end of the year from the current 1,500. The company aims to achieve national coverage by the end of 2009. NTS will also launch a marketing campaign this week for its GSM-based mobile services (under the Axis brand) in the greater Jakarta area. The unlisted company, which aims to have two million subscribers by the end of 2008, will later this year extend the service to other parts of Java, northern Sumatra, Bali, and Lombok.

ò Alibaba.com is said to be poised to become IndiaÆs top online marketplace by number of users as it launches its first major overseas expansion. The company, which last year doubled the number of Indian users of its global website to more than 400,000, said it was now signing up more than 20,000 Indian businesses a month to its dedicated Indian site, launched in October in a partnership with Infomedia, IndiaÆs biggest Yellow Pages company. Alibaba.com was already among the top three online marketplaces in India and would surpass its rivals by number of users before the end of the year.
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