ò According to its president, Sony Bank has plans to double its assets in custody to 2 trillion yen ($17 billion) in four to five years. Industry observers see intense competition among Japanese Internet-only banks, with the entry in September of SBI Sumishin Net Bank, a fifty-fifty joint venture between Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co. and SBI Holdings Inc. Sony also announced the launch of Sony Bank Securities Inc., tasked with making available to Sony Bank customers asset management services, such as cash stock transactions, which cannot be undertaken by a bank. Sony Bank said it is looking to offering services that would allow clients to manage simultaneously assets held in accounts at both Sony Bank and Sony Bank Securities. Sony Financial Holdings Inc. holds 88 percent of Sony Bank, with the remaining 18 percent owned by Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., the core banking unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc.
ò Yahoo Japan Corp. and Mitsui & Co. announced their plans to launch a web outlet mall that will sell fashionable foreign brand items at low prices. The online mall, Premium Brand Avenue, will open at the Yahoo! Shopping site, offering the clothes, bags and accessories of 15 famous brands. The two groups said the online mall targets young consumers in their 20s and 30s. The web mall will be operated by LX Inc., an online fashion goods retailer affiliated with Mitsui. Yahoo Japan and Mitsui said they will increase the number of brands available online to more than 100 within two years.
ò Toshiba Corp. and Microsoft Corp. announced their move to form a consortium with the aim of promoting products for the high-definition DVD system, a next-generation DVD format. The Advanced Interactivity Consortium aims to maximize consumer satisfaction worldwide by accelerating industry-wide adoption of advanced interactivity and interoperability across a broad array of HD DVD products.
ò Matsushita Electric Industrial announced that it would launch new Blu-ray optical disc recorders in November. The company said the device allows more hours of full high-definition recording on a single disc than any others available. Matsushita and Sony Corp. promote the Blu-ray technology, which competes with the HD DVD format, backed by Toshiba Corp. Matsushita also said it will offer the world's first DVD recorders that can store full high-definition programs on conventional DVD discs next month. Video rental chain Blockbuster Inc., the largest U.S. provider of home movie entertainment, came out in supporting the Blu-ray format earlier in June. Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. entered into exclusivity deals in August to distribute their next-generation discs on Toshiba's HD DVD format for the next 18 months.
ò According to a survey conducted by the countryÆs National Internet Development Agency (NIDA), more than half of South Korean Internet users have bought products and services through the internet at least once a year, resulting to a per-capita spending amounting to 41,500 won ($45) a year. The survey showed that the number of people who used Internet shopping malls to buy products and services went up by 4.5 percent from a year ago, with Internet users purchasing products online twice a month on average. The report said that of the 34.4 million Internet users, some 56 percent had used Internet shopping at least once. Out of this figure, up to 63.6 percent of female users used online shopping malls at least once. The survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 25,654 people nationwide in June 2007. Topping the list as the most popular items on the Internet stores online were clothes, shoes, sports-related items and music. The survey showed that about 51.7 percent of users compare prices at portal sites before making the purchase.
ò LG Telecom, the nation's third largest mobile carrier, and NHN Corp., the leading internet search portal in South Korea, announced their signing of a memorandum of understanding for the joint development of a mobile internet service. According to a statement from the two companies, the agreement will see NHN providing its search portal Naver's content to LG Telecom's mobile Internet. The two will also work together to develop a new convergence service merging fixed-line Internet service with the mobile service.
ò According to Samsung, the first jointly developed mobile phone under the strategic alliance between Samsung and Giorgio Armani will be launched in the Middle East in December. This will be followed by the launching of an Armani/Casa-Samsung luxury LCD television in January. Under the strategic agreement, Armani will create the design and Samsung will provide the technology and function.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI) announced that it has entered into an agreement with South Korean broadband provider Hanaro Telecom to offer movies by VoD on the same day they are released on DVD and local home video. The agreement will see SPTI's theatrical features made available to Hanaro Telecom's HanaTV subscribers. According to Sony, this marks the first time the day-and-date VoD model has been used in South Korea and the second of such international deal, following its agreement with Singapore's SingTel for the MioTV service in August. SPTI said it has also licensed electronic sell-through (EST) rights to current and library features to Hanaro Telecom, an offering that would enable HanaTV subscribers to download movies to own on their set-top boxes, PCs and various plug-and-play devices.
ò SK Telecom (SKT) and HI Korea (HIK) announced that they have signed an agreement to jointly promote publishing and marketing in a bid to enrich the South Korean mobile 3D game market. The two companies said the partnership has been set up to select and attract content suitable for the local market needs, including the objective preliminary review of content by evaluation organizations and technical / marketing support. The project is also aimed at bringing in famous Japanese content titles. SKT and HIK disclosed that they have an investment plan to encourage Japanese game companies to publish their game titles in South Korea.
ò Industry sources show that the countryÆs IT service firms are focusing on foreign countries. The development is seen as a result of local market saturation. Companies that include Samsung SDS, LG CNS and Posdata are seen as making their expansion by way of their operations in foreign countries or through investments in new business. Samsung SDS, the largest IT service firm in Korea, signed a strategic partnership contract with French firm Capgemeni to share the same brand in the IT consulting field. LG CNS, with support from Korea Post, disclosed that it is visiting Mongolia and Kazakhstan to discuss plans to sell its electronic mail handling system to the two Central Asian nations, with support from Korea Post. Posdata is aiming at providing IT hardware, software and maintenance services to public and private firms including POSCO. Posdata also made its foray into the manufacturing of wireless Internet equipment and devices.
ò Capgemini, EuropeÆs largest IT services company, announced that it has signed a strategic alliance with Samsung SDS, the largest integrated IT services provider in South Korea. Industry observers see the alliance as enabling CapgeminiÆs clients access to Samsung SDSÆs capabilities in consulting in South Korea.
ò According to industry sources, Alibaba.com has secured an approval from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for an IPO estimated to be worth some $1 billion. Alibaba Group reportedly plans to list its business-to-business operation, Alibaba.com, but has not considered to make its other units part of the IPO. Alibaba Group is partly owned by Yahoo Inc. The business-to-business division makes up the largest part of Alibaba Group. Its consumer arm includes the auction firm Taobao, online payments unit Alipay and Yahoo China. Alibaba's IPO is being sponsored by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley with Rothschild as an adviser.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò CDC Games, a business unit of CDC Corporation announced key performance metrics for certain of its commercially available games in China. It cited Yulgang, one of ChinaÆs most popular online games, now in its third year of commercial availability, as having posted average daily revenue growth of more than 20 percent in September 2007 compared to both July and August 2007. Special Force, the first-to-market, first-person-shooter online game launched by CDC Games in China in June 2007, now exceeds 6 million registered users. Average daily revenue for Special Force was up sequentially 23.4 percent from July to August and 52.3 percent from August to September. Peak concurrent Users (PCU) was up approximately 13.3 percent from August to September and average play time for Special Force users is now approximately 79 minutes. Following the acquisition of the OPTIC games division from CITIC Pacific in 2007, CDC reported that their primary game, Shaiya Online, has performed well with average daily revenue in September up 15 percent compared to July. Shine Online, a new cartoon fantasy, 3D MMORPG launched by OPTIC in September 2007, already has 765,000 registered users in its first 10 days of commercial availability.
ò The9 Limited and Blizzard Entertainment announced that Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft, the subscription-based Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) has achieved record peak concurrency of 800,000. The figure stands for the highest concurrency since the game's commercial launch in June 2005. The9's business is primarily focused on operating and developing high-quality games for the Chinese online game market.
ò According to data from the countryÆs Ministry of Information Industry, at the end of August 2007, there were more than 515 million mobile users in China. The report noted how the number of mobile users has been on the rise by an average of 6.8 million per month, with Chinese mobile users sending a total of 378.5 billion SMS messages in August, up 38.3 percent year-on-year. The report stated that the country posted a 28 percent increase in its production of mobile handsets to 347.6 mobile handsets over the same period last year.
ò According to the countryÆs Ministry of Information Industry (MII), China is planning to submit a home-grown fourth-generation (4G) mobile data specification to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in either 2008 or 2009. The ministry described the 4G technology as enabling users to surf the web and transmit files much faster than current 3G standards, which gives it strong possibility in the wireless multimedia sector. The search for a dominant 4G standard is set to begin in 2008, with the ITU begins accepting proposals from countries around the world. The first 4G networks are forecast to be commercially deployed by around 2010.
ò According to industry sources, two Chinese telecommunications operators û China Mobile and China Netcom û have plans to list yuan-denominated A shares in mainland China next year. The two companies are already listed in Hong Kong. China Mobile Ltd., China's largest mobile operator by subscribers, has selected China International Capital Corp. to handle its IPO. China Netcom has chosen CICC, Huatai Securities Co. and UBS AG to underwrite its listing. Sources mentioned that the two telecommunications operators had looked to raising between $300 million and $400 million earlier this year.
ò Kingsoft Corporation announced that it has raised HK$768 million ($99 million) from its Hong Kong IPO after fixing the price at the top of the range. The report said that if the greenshoe is exercised in full, the deal is expected to increase by another 15 percent to US$114 million. Industry analysts ascribe to the bullish market the performance of the online game and software developer, with the offering happening with the surging of the Hang Seng Index. Sources said more than 200 institutional investors participated in the deal even though the institutional order book closed a day ahead of schedule. The deal was jointly arranged by Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers.
ò According to statistics from the Ministry of Information of Industry, China's software industry posted a 22.9 percent in its revenue to 343.8 billion yuan ($45.7 billion) for the first eight months of this year. Of the total revenue, software products accounted for a 24.1 percent rise to 121.2 billion yuan ($16.1 billion); system integration with an 18.5 percent rise to 84 billion yuan ($11.1 billion); software technological services with a 23.9 percent rise to 55.8 billion yuan ($7.4 billion); embedded system software with a 24.5 percent rise to 74.2 billion yuan ($9.8 billion); and IC design with a 27.6 percent rise to 8.5 billion yuan ($1.1 billion).
ò IndiaÆs largest IT park, Technopark announced that it has signed a strategic co-operation agreement with China-based Shenyang Information Industry Bureau. Under the agreement,
Shenyang-based IT software companies would explore the possibility of locating themselves at Technopark either as wholly owned foreign enterprises (WOFE) or as joint venture partners with Indian software companies and also supporting frequent exchange IT Software delegations. The report said Technopark would promote co-operation between Indian IT companies from Technopark and Shenyang-based IT software companies in the areas of software export and outsourcing services for Japanese, South Korean, American and European markets, with the cooperation focused on software outsourcing training, specially the training for BPOs, animation outsourcing and allied areas.
ò China Digital TV, a provider of smart card systems for Pay-TV operators in China, announced that it has raised $192 million in an IPO of shares. The company said it will use the funds in part to expand research and development. The Beijing-based company disclosed that it has not yet ruled out plans of mergers and acquisitions.
ò Longtop Financial Technologies, a software and IT services provider, announced its move to go public. According to IDC, Longtop is ranked No. 3 for banking IT solutions in China, with the firm providing services to three of the four largest state-controlled banks. Goldman Sachs Group is the lead underwriter of the IPO.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò International Games System (IGS), a maker of arcade game software/hardware and an operator of online games in Taiwan, reported estimated revenues of NT$268.6 million ($8.2 million) for September. The company ascribed mainly the record revenues to sales revenues of NT$100 million ($3.0 million) for shipments of game machines to Italy in September. IGS said the shipments to Italy will continue until mid-December 2007. The company said shipments of arcade game machines to China generated sales revenue of about NT$70 million ($2.1 million) in August and September each.
ò Gemalto, a digital security firm, announced a partnership with TaiwanÆs Far Eastone Telecommunications to set up AsiaÆs first mobile contactless SIM-based NFC (near field communications) trial. This trial, starting in November and to be rolled out in phases, is part of the GSM AssociationÆs Pay-Buy Mobile initiative that seeks to define a common global approach to using NFC technology to link mobile devices with payment and contactless systems. Far Eastone subscribers participating in the trial will be able to make mobile contactless purchases at any Far Eastone trial partner merchant as if using an ordinary contactless payment card.
ò STATS ChipPAC Ltd., a leading independent semiconductor test and advanced packaging service provider, announced that Winstek Semiconductor Corporation, a subsidiary of STATS ChipPAC, has changed its name to STATS ChipPAC Taiwan Semiconductor Corporation effective October 5, 2007. According to STATS ChipPAC, the new name reflects its ôcommon corporate identityö and reinforces the fact that it is seamlessly integrated with STATS ChipPAC's assembly and test operations worldwide.
ò HwaCom Systems, a Taiwan-based system integration service provider, and Zyxel Communications, a network equipment maker, announced that they have jointly won an open bid to supply NT$830 million ($25.5 million) worth of VDSL 2 equipment to Chunghwa Telecom (CHT). Under the contract, HwaCom and Zyxel will jointly supply 300,000 units of VDSL 2 equipment, including VDSL 2 switches and VDSL 2 CPE (consumer premise equipment) products.
ò Acer announced its acquisition of up to 80.6 percent of its US rival Gateway's outstanding common shares as of October. Acer said it is extending the deadline for the company's tender offer to October 10 to allow the US Committee on Foreign Investment to complete a review of the deal. According to Acer chairman, with the extension of the tender offer, Acer is expected to be able to acquire up to 90 percent of Gateway's outstanding shares and therefore, may not be required to launch a top up share offer to help complete the planned acquisition of Gateway.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò Hong Kong-based Artificial Life, Inc., a leading provider of award-winning mobile 3G technology, games and applications, and Oxygen Media, announced the global launch of the Bad Girls Club 3G mobile game. The game offers players an opportunity to play "bad girl" and be a star in a reality TV show to gain fame and notoriety. Industry observers see Bad Girls Club as a 3G game that brings the reality TV show experience onto mobile phones.
ò Analysts at Bear Stearns disclosed that they have upgraded Hutchison Telecom from "peer perform" to "outperform." Sources also said that the companyÆs year end 2008 target price is set to HK$13 ($1.6). The analysts noted that Hong KongÆs mobile subscriber base posted a 7.4 percent year on year and 1.3 percent sequentially for the first half of 2007. The analysts also stated that wireless growth is expected to continue and subscriber growth is estimated at a three-year CAGR of 3.2 percent.
ò Cognitec Systems, the leading provider of face recognition technology and systems, announced that it has completed the deployment of 133 sets of its Face Recognition Time and Attendance System (FRTAS) to Ricacorp Properties Limited, the third largest property agency in Hong Kong. Cognitec's FRTAS has been installed at branches to provide the company with reliable time-and-attendance recording services of over 4,000 staff members at 133 sites with a projected expansion to 150 sites in the near future. Ricacorp Properties have been utilizing traditional clock-in machines with paper cards and manual input, but recently decided to switch to FRTAS recognizing its in view of its exceptional usability. Cognitec Systems is headquartered in Germany, with offices in the US, Brazil and Hong Kong.
ò Silterra Malaysia, a semiconductor wafer foundry and Telekom Research & Development (TM R&D), the research and development arm of Telekom Malaysia, announced their signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) leading to collaboration in areas of interest related to semiconductor wafer fabrication. The principal objective of the MOU is to promote co-operation between the two parties in the field of research and development focusing to areas such as design, fabrication and device modeling based on Radio Frequency Complementary Metal Oxide Silicon (RF CMOS) technology as well as cross-utilization of facilities, like those for wafer fabrication and testing equipment.
ò MNC Wireless, a Mobile Value-Added Services (VAS) Provider in Malaysia, announced that it has entered into a partnership with Saudi Arabia's Vodatel. The partnership is in the form of a joint venture company named, International Company for Mobile Services (ICMS) to provide mobile VAS in Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), Middle East and North African Countries (MENA). The agreement will have Vodatel owning 70 percent with MNC owning the remaining shares of ICMS. ICMS will have its operational headquarters in Riyadh, where it will provide mobile VAS including mobile & wireless content, application & services creation, storage, provisioning, billing, messaging and delivery platforms and software.
ò Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) announced that its mobile phone subscriber base has gone beyond the 28 million mark by the end of the third quarter. The company said that the combined subscribers of PLDT units Smart and Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel) hit 28.5 million as of October, with Smart and Piltel subscribers accounting for more than half of the domestic cellular market. The two companies added 2.9 million subscribers during the first half, a performance that boost PLDTÆs growth during its first-half net profit by 13.2 percent to 17.2 billion pesos ($386.3 million). PLDT upped its core earnings forecast for 2007 to 33 - 34 billion pesos ($741.3 million - US$763.8 million) from the 32 billion pesos ($718.8 million) it predicted previously, following its better-than-expected results in the first half. PLDT, the Southeast Asian country's biggest company, is controlled by Hong Kong-listed First Pacific and partly owned by Japan's NTT Group.
ò Industry sources said that shareholders of United Test & Assembly Center, SingaporeÆs second-largest chip tester shareholders, approved a takeover by TPG and Affinity Equity Partners. The deal estimated to be worth S$2.2 billion ($1.5 billion) is considered to be Asia's third-biggest private equity buyout this year. ABN AMRO advised Affinity and TPG on the acquisition. The bank, together with JPMorgan and Merrill Lynch, also provided financing to the buyers.
ò SeeNow Pte Ltd, an RFID solutions provider, announced its entering into collaboration with Tracient to deliver a comprehensive RFID solution for the apparel industry. Tracient TechnologiesÆ handheld RFID readers are being used in an apparel stocktaking application in Singapore. Their ôSmart Shopö system gives businesses real-time visibility of stock and improved on-shelf availability for in-demand items.
ò Philippine-based Bayan Telecommunications Inc., the phone subsidiary of Benpres Holdings Corp., announced its decision to convert the parent companyÆs advance subscriptions of 4.4 billion pesos ($98.0 million) into equity. The companyÆs CFO said that the advances are deposits for future subscription with the conversion expected to be completed by the end of the year. The company said it is predicting higher sales for the year because of its wireless landline service. According to its consultant, Bayan is set to spend about 10 billion pesos over a five-year period, aiming to build infrastructure.
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