A week in tech; part 1

The latest tech news from Japan and Korea.

A week in Japan tech

Life Sciences

- Ebara Jitsugyo has developed an air sterilization system for hospitals, which are preparing for the possible spread of SARS in Japan. The system eliminates airborne bacteria and viruses using ultraviolet rays. While no confirmed case of SARS has been reported in Japan, health care institutions in the country are stepping up efforts to counter a possible outbreak of the disease.


- Fujitsu Social Science Laboratory develops a fax system that employs optical communications for faster transmissions, halving the phone line charges associated with faxing using conventional analog lines. The company anticipates demand from mail order firms, travel agencies and other users that fax in large volumes in the course of making reservations as well as sending and receiving orders.

- NTT DoCoMo to extend a £200 million loan to Hutchison 3 UK. The loan is part of a plan by 3's three parents - DoCoMo, Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa and KPN Telecom of the Netherlands - to inject up to £1 billion into it to convince banks to alter a key loan. The 65% Hutchison-owned 3 last month started Europe's first 3G mobile-phone service in Britain.

Mobile / Wireless

- Subscribers to mobile phone services in Japan exceeded 80 million at the end of March, with the penetration rate among households reaching 63.7%. NTT DoCoMo had 57.9% share in the mobile phone service market, while KDDI took 18.5% and J-Phone Co. 18.4%. The Tu-Ka group's share was 5%.

- Lens makers boost production to meet surge in demand for digital cameras and mobile phones that take photographs. Firms, such as Konica, Fuji Photo, Nikon, Matsushita and Tamron, are investing more in this field as they expect its popularity to continue to rise.

- KDDI subscriptions for 3G CDMA2000 1x telephones top 7 million. This means that half of KDDI's mobile phone subscriptions, which totaled 14.05 million at the end of March, are 3G subscriptions. This transformation has occurred in the one year since the company launched the service in April 2002.


- ADSL subscribers reached 7.02 million at the end of March, exceeding the 7 million mark for the first time, the Telecommunications Ministry said. But net monthly growth, which once topped 500,000, slipped to 430,000 in March, indicating growing saturation of the market and competition from fiber-optic Internet services.


- NEC forecasts second straight full-year loss amid a steep slide in the valuation of its stock portfolio. The Japanese computer giant said it now expects to post a group net loss of ¥25 billion ($208.4 million) for the fiscal year ended March 31, in stark contrast to its forecast group net profit of ¥10 billion, which NEC had reconfirmed three months ago, citing benefits from aggressive restructuring.

- IBM Japan and H-P to lower their prices on Unix servers. IBM Japan will reduce the prices for both its p630 and p650 series of Unix servers by an average 40-50%. The price for its inexpensive p630 models will be cut in half to 2.61 million yen. Hewlett-Packard Japan is also considering reducing the price of products like its rp4705 midsize server by about 20%.

Venture Capital / Investments

- The Ministry of Finance to sell this fiscal year shares in NTT and Japan Tobacco that it decided not to sell in fiscal 2002 due to the weakness in the stock market. Of the slightly more than 7 million NTT shares it now owns, the MOF plans to sell up to 1 million shares in fiscal 2003 in what will be the seventh round of its sale of the telephone giant's stock.

- Canon passes Sony in market capitalization to become Japan's largest electronic equipment company. Canon's market capitalization, as calculated by multiplying its stock price by the number of its outstanding shares, came to ¥3.74 trillion last Wednesday, unchanged from Tuesday. But a decline in Sony's stock price last Wednesday pushed its market capitalization down to ¥3.72 trillion.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Nintendo slashes earnings forecast for the year after worldwide sales of Gamecube consoles and software were hit by the popularity of rival PlayStation 2. The firm slashed its expected group net profit by 17.5% to ¥66 billion (about $550 million) with its recurring profit seen 13.6 per cent below previous expectations at ¥95 billion. Its sales are expected to decline 16.7% to ¥500 billion.


- Computer Associates to increase by more than 400% server administration marketing staff. By increasing the marketing force, which helps the unit's sales agents in Japan sell the software, the subsidiary will aim to nurture the products into another major revenue source alongside computer network administration software products.

A week in Korea tech


- Major telecom operators likely to see lackluster earnings in the first three months of this year. LG Telecom, a major mobile carrier, is set to unveil its first-quarter earnings later this month, while KTF and SK Telecom will follow suit around the end of the month. Fixed-line telecom giant KT Corp. plans to reveal its first-quarter earnings in late April or early May through a conference call.

Mobile / Wireless

- KT and Intel to provide broadband services in more than 350 Lotteria fast-food restaurants across the nation. KT will provide the wireless LAN service, or Wi-Fi network, called Nespot. The business partners said that the launch of Nespot was completed at the end of March and will transform over 350 Lotteria restaurants into the fast-food industry's first Nespot zones.

- Samsung, LG and a Motorola unit halt shipments of mobile-phone handsets to SK out of concern they won't be paid in the wake of an accounting scandal at affiliate SK Global. SK Telecom receives handsets distributed by SK Global, a trading company under the country's third largest conglomerate, SK Group.


- Dacom's online-storage service growing faster than expected. Its most promising business item named "Webhard" (www.webhard.co.kr) is the country's No. 1 online-storage service. The company started offering virtual data-storage service for mostly business users in March 2000. One gigabyte (GB) of Webhard space - today's top-rated hard disk drive is usually 60GB - costs W13,000 per month.

- Dacom to launch a new wireless Internet service called "AirLAN" using the broadband infrastructure of Powercomm. The company said the new service, based on 2.4GHz range, has a coverage of 50 meters, allowing subscribers to access the broadband Internet freely compared with existing wireless LAN services.


- South Korea to propose suspension on deposit payable on a possible duty for Hynix Semiconductor's memory chips, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said. In a preliminary ruling last week, the U.S. Commerce Department required Hynix to post bonds to cover potential tariffs to be decided in a final ruling.


- LG.Phillips to invest more than W3 trillion to produce large LCD panels. LG.Philips LCD intends to build a sixth plant at its Gumi manufacturing site in South Korea and aims to start operating it in early 2005. The panels produced there will be shipped out mainly for use in large televisions. The glass substrates will be 1,500 x 1,850mm, or about one size larger than current products.

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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