A week in tech: part 1

We look at the top tech stories of the past week from Japan and Korea.

A week in Japan tech

Telecommunications

- Communications charges for mobile phones exceed those for fixed phones for the first time in 2002, as more people are using such phones to transmit e-mail, images and other non-voice data. Monthly spending on mobile phone fees per household averaged Y6,159 in 2002, nearly doubling from 2000, when the survey was first conducted.

Software

- Tera Systems establishes Japanese subsidiary. The new unit is a wholly owned subsidiary capitalized at Y10 million. Headquartered in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, the new company will market to semiconductor manufacturers software that shortens the design time for system-on-a-chip products having line widths of 0.13 micron and smaller.

- Toshiba is to set up a research institute for computer software, with a view to halving the lead time for new electronic products by concentrating all software development in the lab. The creation of the institute is designed to cope with the situation in which the development of software now requires even larger manpower and funds than that required for the computers.

Hardware

- Mitsubishi Electric to contract out production of its computer servers to NEC, thus effectively quitting the computer production business. The decision was prompted by fierce competition resulting from the price war waged by US competitors such as Dell Computer. The firm's information-equipment division will now concentrate on service-related operations such as systems configuration.

- Fujitsu loss narrows for the quarter ended December amid stronger semiconductor demand. The computer company posted a net loss of ¥24.9 billion ($210.1 million), compared with a net loss of ¥106.2 billion a year earlier. Fujitsu's group operating loss was ¥13.1 billion for the latest quarter, compared with a loss of ¥45.8 billion a year earlier.

Wireless

- NTT DoCoMo suspends sales of its "Mova N504iS" digital-camera-equipped mobile phone because of a defect that poses safety concerns. The problem, which occurs when internal transistors and other components fail, raises the temperature of the phone as high as 100 C. In addition to potentially deforming the phone, DoCoMo says it cannot rule out the possibility that the heat will burn users.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Sony profit nearly doubles during the fiscal third quarter due to a weak yen, cost-cutting efforts at its electronics unit and strong sales in its movie and videogames businesses. But company executives warned that earnings for the full year could be hurt by slumping consumer spending in the US For the quarter ended Dec. 31, the company had net income of ¥125.4 billion ($1.06 billion). Also, Sony announces changes to its board designed to more clearly separate business operations from oversight functions at the company. Most important, the consumer-electronics giant plans to increase the number of non-Sony members on its board. Additionally, Sony will abolish its Japanese audit system and set up a United States-style corporate governance model, with an in-house committee structure using independent directors.

A week in Korea tech

Telecommunications

- KTF to spend a total of $923.1 million on capital expenditure this year, with about W234.8 billion won allocated for third-generation wireless technologies such as wideband code division multiple access, or W-CDMA, and 1X EV-DO. The bulk of the investment will be spent on the network. Separately, the company said net profit for 2002 rises 23% to W532.2 billion ($454.4 million) from a year earlier, helped by an increase in subscribers and average revenue per user. Revenue rose 20% to W5.353 trillion won, as the number of subscribers grew to 10.3 million from 9.6 million at the end of 2001.

Internet

- Korea's Internet and email services were paralyzed Saturday in the aftermath of a virus attack, apparently from abroad, incurring damages to local businesses. Internet service companies and security firms managed to repair the extensive network failures late Saturday night. A group of South Korean Internet retailers and computer game-room owners have threatened to sue the Communication Ministry.

Venture Capital / Investments

- SK Telecom to buy back 3% of its own shares and fully review its facility investment plans for this year. SK Telecom will retire about 2.54 million shares of its 84.7 million stock issues, valued at W500 billion ($423.7 million), or W200,000 per share. Earlier this month, the SK Group flagship retired 5% of its shares acquired in the process of stock swaps with KT Corp.

Hardware

- LG Electronics to supply 3,800 LCD television sets to Shimao Group, China's largest real estate development firm. The deal with China's Shimao is the firm's largest LCD television contract in China. The initial delivery of 1,000 units will begin in the first half of this year and will continue until the end of 2005.

A week in tech is brought to you by FinanceAsia, and IRG, Asia's boutique investment bank to the telecoms, media and tech sectors. More can be found at:

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