Media, Entertainment and Gaming
Sony Corp plans to deploy a lighter version of its PlayStation 2 game console later this month, in a bid to boost sales of the device during the holiday season. The new model, which has a built-in AC adaptor, weighs 720 grams, down from a combined weight of 850 grams for the previous model and its external AC adaptor. Sony said the device will go on sale in Japan in November for Ñ16,000 ($140), which is unchanged from the price of the previous model. The timing for overseas launches has yet to be decided. Industry observers say maintaining brisk demand for the PS2, which has sold more than 120 million units around the world, is just as important for Sony as working on boosting the sales of its latest game machine, the PlayStation 3.
NBC Universal Inc. and Jupiter Telecommunications Co. have signed an agreement for NBC Universal to acquire Jupiter Telecommunications' subsidiary company JSBC2. With the acquisition, NBC will be able to launch Sci Fi Channel on J:COM. Under the agreement, NBC Universal will buy 100% of JSBC2, which currently holds the broadcasting license for Reality TV on the SkyperfecTV platform in Japan. The deal is expected to close in April 2008. Jupiter is Japan's largest multiple system operator (MSO) and multiple channel operator (MCO). J:COM provides cable television, high-speed Internet access, telephony, and mobile services to customers through 21 managed franchises.
Softbank Corp. reported a 221.8% surge in its net profit in the six months to September to Ñ46.5 million yen ($405.4 million) from a year earlier. Softbank ascribed the growth mainly to its mobile telephone business. The company said its operating profit went up 49% to Ñ167.7 billion ($1.5 billion), on revenue of Ñ1.3 trillion ($11.7 billion), up 21.8% from a year earlier. Softbank owns 39% of business-to-business web site Alibaba.com, whose shares surged in their Hong Kong trading debut, as well as 41% of Yahoo Japan, which posted a 20% increase in operating profit in the fiscal second quarter from a year earlier, due to the surge in its advertising business.
Olympus Corp. will start construction in late 2008 on a new factory in Vietnam that will produce digital cameras. Company sources indicate that the investment will be about Ñ5 billion ($44 million). Meanwhile, an Olympus spokesman denied media reports that the company has plans to consolidate its two factories in China into one and transfer operations to Vietnam. The company said the plans for an additional base in Vietnam are separate from the projects in China.
The Japanese unit of Microsoft and Sony Corp. is setting up a consortium to study new applications of digital equipment, including consumer electronics. The Windows Digital Lifestyle Consortium includes Toshiba Corp. and Yodobashi Camera Co. as well as 46 other IT-related companies.
Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (NTT) reported a 33% decline in its group net profit in the fiscal first half ended September, 2007, to Ñ195.1 billion ($1.7 billion). NTT attributed the drop to increased marketing costs at its mobile telephone unit and depreciation of fixed-line facilities and said it is planning to set up an advanced network based on its high-speed, fiber-optic Internet service to counter these negative factors. The group operating profit fell 18% to Ñ563.9 billion, while revenues dropped 1.2% to Ñ5.1 trillion. The company indicated that income from its fixed-line telephone business continued to decline even as its broadband service and system integration operations registered a strong performance. NTT said it has changed its fiscal year group revenue outlook to Ñ10.6 trillion ($95.7 billion) from Ñ10.7 trillion and its met profit forecast to Ñ530 billion from Ñ460 billion. The figures includes an estimated profit from returning a proxy portion of public pension fund assets.
NCsoft Corp., South Korea's leading Internet game manufacturer, announced a 21% decline in its third-quarter earnings to W10 billion ($11.1 million) from W12.8 billion a year earlier. The company attributed the drop to increased investment in new online games. Sales fell 5.8% year-on-year to W80 billion and the operating profit dropped 44.3% to W9.7 billion.
Daum Communications Corp., South Korea's second-largest Internet portal operator, said its July-September net income surged to W20.8 billion ($22.9 million) from W9.3 billion a year earlier. Sales went up 26.8% year-on-year to W149.8 billion won and its operating profit climbed 158.4% to W11.2 billion, mainly due to increased revenue from its online advertising business.
Yahoo Korea has launched a Korean-language satellite image and map searching service that can be used on the web without the need to install additional programs. The service aims to distinguish itself from locally developed portal sites, like Naver and Daum, which maintain their own map search services, covering only South Korea. Yahoo Korea said about 2.2 million names of cities, mountains, streets, buildings and tourist spots all over the world are available in Korean and can be searched on its web site. The company also revealed plans to make available a geographic data source that will enable users to use the images for free.
SK Telecom, the countryÆs top mobile carrier, said it is interested in acquiring Hanarotelecom, South KoreaÆs second-largest Internet broadband carrier. According to an SK Telecom spokesman, the company sees the acquisition as helping it with business diversification and at the same time boosting its competitiveness in the mobile and fixed-line sector. Industry observers believe the solid Internet infrastructure of Hanaro is the reason why it is attracting takeover interest.
Samsung Electronics and KT is forming a partnership to push IPTV sales, as demand for such services is increasing in South Korea. Under the partnership, Samsung will offer 42-inch plasma display panels (PDP) and 40-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs at specially discounted prices to new subscribers who apply for the new Mega TV service. The service offers programming from all terrestrial TV operators, namely KBS, MBC and SBS. According to KT, the Mega TV video-on-demand (VOD) service had about 148,000 registered subscribers as of the end of September, with the company looking to gain some 1 million subscribers by 2008.
Samsung Electronics, the worldÆs largest manufacturer of LCD panels, also announced plans to build a new LCD line using advanced 11th-generation technology. The move is seen by industry observers as a proactive response to the rising demand for larger LCD television screens. According to its top official, the 11th-generation technology will make it possible to make glass sheets measuring 3,200 millimeters by 3,600 millimeters. The announcement follows a report saying Samsung will upgrade to 10th-generation technology from the current eighth generation to cut larger LCD panels from large glass sheets.
SK Telecom has finally decided to invest US$70 million out of the US$300 million that it has so far pledged to the Helio MVNO joint venture with Earthlink, according to market sources. Earlier in June, both SK Telecom and Earthlink made a pledge of US$100 million of additional investment for Helio. In September, SK Telecom pledged an additional US$200 million. With its latest investments, SK TelecomÆs invested capital in Helio will surpass that of Earthlink's, giving ST Telecom control of Helio's governance.
SK Telecom Co. said it has decided to buy back W100 billion ($110.2 million) worth of shares to enhance shareholder value. In a regulatory filing, SK Telecom indicated its move to repurchase a total of 471,000 shares for W212,500 ($234.20) per share until February 2008. In a separate filing, the company said it will pay W9,400 ($10.30) per share in cash dividends to its shareholders this year, which is higher than the earlier announced W8,000 ($8.80).
NetEase.com announced its unaudited financial results for the quarter ended September 30, 2007, with its net profit reaching Rmb260.2 million ($35.1 million), compared to Rmb312.6 million in the preceding quarter. The Internet portal reported total revenues of Rmb571.1 million for the third quarter compared to Rmb558 million for the preceding quarter. Total operating expenses reached Rmb179 million ($24.1 million), compared to Rmb142.8 million for the preceding quarter, mainly because of higher spending on the promotion of Westward Journey Online III and Fantasy Westward Journey.
Ctrip.com reported a 55% year-on-year rise in its net revenues to Rmb323 million ($43.5 million) for the quarter ended September 30, 2007. The Internet travel services firm said its hotel reservation revenues increased 40% to Rmb176 million ($23.7 million) and air ticket booking revenues went up 76% to Rmb138 million. As of September 30, 2007, Ctrip's cash stood at Rmb1.2 billion, compared with Rmb978 million as of June 30, 2007.
China International Travel Service has entered a new cooperation with online payment service provider PayPal. The agreement will allow customers of CITS to use their personal PayPal account, debit card, bank card or credit card to fulfill travel-related payments. CITS provides hotel reservation, air ticket booking and other travel related services to tourists both from China and abroad.
According to media reports, Baidu may consider listing its shares in Hong Kong. The reports quoted a top company official saying the listing would enhance the company's profile and help fund expansion into new areas such as online auctions. The comments followed the successful Hong Kong IPO of Alibaba.com.
China.com, a Hong Kong listed subsidiary of CDC Corporation, has secured an advertising contract with Giant Interactive Group Inc., one of the leading online games developers and operators in China. The advertising campaign for Giant will run on China.comÆs newly enhanced game channel. The China.com game channel is designed as a comprehensive game portal and an interactive gaming platform. It provides game players with detailed information about popular multiplayer online games and enables them to form game communities. The game channel also provides operators with a platform to advertise their MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) games to millions of game players in China and allows domestic and overseas game operators to launch their browser-based games. Giant Interactive focuses on MMO games that are played through networked game servers. China.com was chosen as the first company to host Google's Video Adsense which serves video ads targeted at China's English-speaking audience.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
NCsoft Corporation and Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited have entered into an agreement, which gives Shanda an exclusive license to operate NCsoft's 3D MMORPG AION: The Tower of Eternity (AION) in mainland China. The closed beta testing for AION began in October, 2007, in South Korea and is expected to begin in China in the second half of 2008. NCsoft and Shanda also announced a strategic alliance that will make Shanda a strategic investor of NCsoft's Chinese subsidiary, NCsoft China. NCsoft has been working toward expanding the global markets and today has its own development and/or publishing offices in North America, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Thailand.
Beijing Mobile has recently launched four types of call billing inquiry services for its consumers - paper bills, electronic bills, short message-based bills and multimedia messaging service-based bills, all of which are free for clients. Beijing Mobile is an affiliate of China Mobile.
China GrenTech Corporation, a China-based radio frequency (RF) and wireless coverage products and services provider, reported a 45.5% rise in revenues to Rmb273.2 million ($36.5 million) for the third quarter ended September 30, 2007 over the preceding quarter. Revenues from base station RF business and wireless coverage products and services went up 19.6 times to 78.7 million yuan (US$10.5 million) over same quarter last year, while revenues from wireless coverage products and services increased to Rmb194.5 million. Net income rose 7.8% to Rmb33.1 million ($4.4 million).
Responding to the report about a breakup of China Mobile, the chairman said the company expects the government to consolidate the telecom industry but not to break up China Mobile. The chairman stressed that China Mobile will in fact be stronger and bigger. The government hasn't announced anything yet about the reorganization of the telecom industry.
AsiaInfo has secured a contract with China Telecom to develop a customer relationship management system in Xinjiang. The CRM system is part of Xinjiang Telecom's next generation Business Operation Support System (BOSS). Under the agreement, AsiaInfo will develop a CRM system to cover 14 cities and regions of Xinjiang.
ZTE Corporation has begun setting up an industry base in Tianjin's Binhai New Area, which will involve an investment of some Rmb5 billion ($674.6 million) According to the company, the new facility will be involved in the development of RFID, laser TV and laser display technology, and Wimax. The centre is expected to have an annual output value of more than Rmb10 billion ($1.3 billion) and is scheduled to be finished by 2011.
Digital China, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) business provider, has set up two joint venture companies, each of them carrying an investment of some Rmb10 million ($1.3 million). The joint venture in Heilongjiang was formed between Digital China and Harbin Science & Technology Developing Company, one of the largest IT companies in the province. The venture in Anhui was formed between Digital China and Anlian, a major computer provider in Anhui Province.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
InterServ International, a developer of online games, announced the launch of Word Puzzle, a multiplayer online game specifically for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade platform. This move makes InterServ the first developer to produce titles for the platform in Asia outside Japan. A report also indicated that InterServ has been accepted into the Microsoft Registered Developers Program. InterServ spent six months to develop Word Puzzle, which can be played in English, German, French and Spanish. The game's interface is available in eight languages.
International Games System (IGS), a producer of arcade game hardware/software and an operator of online games in Taiwan, started to export arcade game machines to Venezuela in October this year. The company said it sees huge potential for this market in 2008. IGS posted revenues of NT$279.6 million ($8.6 million) in October 2007, the highest monthly figure on record for the second consecutive month. The company ascribed the improvement to increasing sales of arcade game machines to China, and shipments to Italy, a new market, which began in the second half of the year. IGS said it completed three customised arcade game machines for the Italian market in early 2007. One has already passed certification and the other two expected to pass soon.
Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) has finalised its plan to lower the required minimum paid-in capital for existing operators of fixed-line telecommunications and that of future operators in order to liberalise the country's telecom market. The reduction will be applicable to four types of fixed-line telecommunication licenses - general (can operate all kinds of services); local voice communications only; domestic long-distance voice communications only; and international voice communications only - and leased submarine cables. Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Fixed Network, New Century InfoComm Tech (Sparq) and Asia Pacific Telecom, the four existing general licensees, are expected to benefit from the plan. According to NCC, the companies can downsize their paid-in capital and then use the funds for other purposes.
Hong Jeng Investment, an investment company under Taiwan-based FAT Capital Management, announced a tender offer to initially purchase up to 10% of network-equipment maker Accton Technology. Hong Jeng said the move is part of a plan to buy out the company in a deal that is estimated to be worth NT$10.8 billion ($333 million). Accton acknowledged in a filing with the Taiwan Stock Exchange that it has received notice of the tender offering from Hong Jeng. Under the offer, Hong Jeng will acquire up to 54.4 million outstanding shares of Accton at NT$20 per share. Once the acquisition has been completed, Hong Jeng will execute its second-round investment plan with the aim of acquiring the remaining 90% of the company at the same price. Accton is currently capitalized at NT$5.4 billion. The deal will see Accton being merged with a holding company under either Hong Jeng or FAT Capital Management.
California-based Superconductor Technologies Inc. (STI) has signed a binding definitive agreement for a joint venture with Hunchun BaoLi Communications Co. to manufacture and market STI's SuperLink interference elimination solution for the China market. The JV will be called Hunchun BaoLi Superconductor Technology (HBST) and will be registered in Jilin Province. Products will be manufactured initially in Shenzhen and eventually in the Commercial Cooperation Zone located in Hunchun City, Jilin Province. The sales and marketing division will be based in Shenzhen. Under the agreement, STI will provide an exclusive license to market its enabling technology in China, while Hunchun BaoLi will provide manufacturing expertise and financing. Baoli will have 55% of the equity in the JV while STI will hold 45% and will also receive royalty on sales. Details were not disclosed. Hunchun BaoLi is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BaoLi Group, which has facilities in the Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and the Jilin province. STI provides high performance infrastructure products for wireless voice and data applications.
Artificial Life, Inc., a leading full service provider of award-winning broadband mobile technology and applications, has revealed plans to enter the South Korean mobile market. The company explained its move as part of its strategy to move into core technology adaptation and 4G technology expansion. Artificial Life said it is also evaluating certain acquisition targets in South Korea. Artificial Life is a public US corporation headquartered in Hong Kong. It maintains EMEA headquarters in Berlin, Germany and a sales office in Tokyo, Japan.
Canada's SiGe Semiconductor has announced expansion plans in Asia, which will involve the relocation of its Hong Kong operations to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park (HKSTP). The company said the move is in line with SiGeÆs strategy to deliver its technology and with it, consolidated application design support. SiGe provides RFICs and multi-chip modules that enable WiMAX, Wi-Fi and GNSS wireless multimedia capabilities in consumer electronics. Its customers include HP, Apple Computer, Lenovo, Nintendo, Samsung and Motorola.
According to industry sources, Vodafone has become the front-runner in the race to acquire a 25% stake in the mobile arm of Telkom Malaysia Berhad for about $3 billion. The reports indicated that state-run Telkom Malaysia is expected to announce soon the sale of a strategic stake in its mobile arm Telkom International. Telekom Malaysia owns 49% pf India's regional mobile operator Spice Telecom. Earlier this year, Vodafone acquired a controlling stake in Hutch-Essar, another mobile operator in India, now known as Vodafone-Essar, for about $11 billion. Telkom Malaysia already has a marketing pact with Vodafone under which it sells Blackberry devices with Vodafone branding. Industry observers note that Telkom International has considerable holdings in mobile businesses across nine Asian nations, including Indonesia, Cambodia and Bangladesh. The company has a total subscriber base of 32 million. Telkom International is being demerged from Telekom MalaysiaÆs fixed-line domestic business.
Globe Telecom, which is controlled by Philippine group Ayala Corp. and partly owned by Singapore Telecommunications, posted a 4% rise in its net profit to Ps9.7 billion ($227.2 million) for the first nine months of the year. Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications (PLDT) reported a 9% decline in third-quarter net profit to Ps9.5 billion ($222.5 million). The company said it has upped its guidance for full-year core net profit to Ps34.5 billion to Ps35 billion ($808.1 million-$819.8 million) from Ps32 billion.
Singapore Telecommunications posted a 3.3% rise in its second-quarter profit to S$988 million ($683 million). The regionÆs largest phone company ascribed the growth to record earnings in India, including contributions by Bharti Airtel. Singtel also noted the strong currency in its Australian sales as one of the reasons for the rise in its profit. SingTel said it registered an additional 21.6 million mobile users during the quarter, led by India and Pakistan, taking its total to 157.9 million customers in eight markets.
According to a study from market researcher GfK Asia, the number of high-definition TV sets sold in Singapore between January and September more than doubled compared with the same period last year. The retail report indicated that more than 150,000 units were sold in the first nine months of this year compared to the 75,000 last year. The HD format is known for images that are four times sharper than the current standard format. An analyst at GfK Asia explained the strong sales as brought about by competitive pricing, with prices dropped by 30% to 50% over the past year for screen sizes ranging from 26 inches to 42 inches.