A week in tech part 2

Our weekly round up of tech stories from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

A week in China

Mobile / Wireless

- China Mobile (Hong Kong) secures upgrade from Moody's Investors Service. Moody's on Wednesday raised its ratings outlook on the company from "stable" to "positive" - its first upgrade for China's No 1 mobile operator in more than three years. China Mobile's debt rating was kept unchanged at Baa2, still a notch above the lowest investment grade.

- China United Telecommunications would be in a much better position to compete for high-end users with rival China Mobile Communication by year-end when the carrier had completed its third-phase code division multiple access (CDMA) network expansion. By then the entire network would be upgraded to a CDMA2000 1X network, a 2.5 generation network with faster and larger data transmission capacity as well as voice transmission quality. China United had signed seven million CDMA users in the first year of operation and was targeting another 14 million users this year.


- Microsoft unprofitable in China. Microsoft has admitted running losses in China for the past 10 years and could wait another decade or two before turning a profit in China. Microsoft would have earned nearly $400 million if it had been paid for its share of software installed in new computers in China last year, but its revenue was only $85 million, according to IDC.


- US restrictions on high-tech exports may keep Intel's first Asia CPU plant from Shanghai. The US Commerce Department's bureau of industry and security ranks countries at four tiers for computer exports. Malaysia and South Korea are considered tier-one countries - the most lenient category. China, on the other hand, is lumped in tier three alongside the likes of Afghanistan, Cambodia and Serbia. Intel officials were quick to reject the report.

Venture Capital / Investments

- Shanghai attracted 50.6 billion yuan (HK$47.7 billion) in domestic investment last year, equivalent to more than 130 million yuan every day, and officials say the city wants to draw even more. The figure was up 84.6% from 2001, according to figures released yesterday by Shanghai's Industrial and Commercial Bureau. Domestic investors mostly targeted the trade, restaurant and manufacturing industries last year, although the technology and service sectors started to gain favour, the industrial bureau said, without giving figures.


- Legend Group shores up its lead in the Asia-Pacific's PC market during 2002, growing at twice the pace of global PC leader HP. Market research firm Dataquest said in a statement from Singapore that PC sales in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, grew 8.6% to 21.7 million units sold during 2002, or nearly three times the global industry rate.

A week in Taiwan tech


- The Taiwan government plans to sell up to 500 million shares - about 5% of its stake - in Chunghwa Telecom Co. starting late this month. The ministry, which owns 82% of Chunghwa Telecom, will submit an application to the Securities and Futures Commission soon for the sale. The Taiwan government, which successfully sold a 13.5% stake in December, plans to privatize the island's largest phone company by the end of the year -- which means it plans to cut its holdings to less than 50%, though it might remain a significant shareholder.


- Taiwan takes top spot in worldwide LCD shipments in 2002, beating South Korea and Japan, according to US market research firm DisplaySearch. Chi Mei Optoelectronics, AU Optronics and other Taiwanese manufacturers rushed to build new plants last year, beating South Korean rivals such as Samsung Electronics and LG Philips LCD.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia tech


- Pacific Internet posts first profit. Fast-growing demand for broadband access helped the Internet service provider end two years of annual losses in 2002. The company, 42%-owned by local conglomerate SembCorp Industries Ltd., ended the year with a net profit of US$1.67 million for 2002, reversing a US$8.62 million loss in 2001, and beating its 2002 profit target of US$1.5 million.

- Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. posted an unexpected gain in third-quarter earnings after its Optus unit in Australia delivered its first profit since being acquired in 2001. Net income rose 2% to S$296 million ($170 million), or 1.66 Singapore cents a share, in the three months ended Dec. 31, from S$291 million, or 1.63 cents, a year earlier. Optus, Australia's second-largest phone company, recorded a profit of A$22 million ($13 million).

Information Technology

- Singapore Computer Systems (SCS), which recently saw a change in its top management, has announced a 33% fall in full-year earnings, citing slower orders and an investment asset impairment. The information technology services provider saw net income drop to $11.8 million for the year ended Dec 31, 2002, from $17.6 million the year before. SCS said if not for an allowance for impairment in investment-related assets, the net profit would have fallen only 7%. Going forward, SCS says it expects economic conditions to remain uncertain. Stronger competition is also expected, but the group is aiming to achieve revenue and net profit growth of about 20% and 50% respectively this year.

A week in Hong Kong tech


- PCCW chairman presence in London arouses speculation over possible acquisition targets. Among targets identified by Britain's Sunday Times were London-based Internet service provider Energis, a Macau mobile phone operation and a Japanese Web-hosting business, both owned by Cable & Wireless.

- Nasdaq-listed telecommunications equipment supplier UTStarcom is seeking a secondary listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, hoping to tap Asian investors' funds. UTStarcom said it was only studying the option and did not have a target date for the Hong Kong listing because it needed special approval from the HKEx, which normally lists only those companies registered in Hong Kong, China, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Mobile / Wireless

- Hutchison Whampoa looks set to extend its mobile businesses in India with plans to take over interests in Escotel Mobile Communications from First Pacific. A person familiar with the plans was reported as saying the Li Ka-shing controlled conglomerate was buying Escort Telecom's mobile phone service license in Punjab, the state with the fastest growing number of subscribers.


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