A week in tech

A summary of all the major tech stories in Asia this week broken down by country and sector.

A week in Japan tech

Life Sciences

- Kirin Brewery allies with NanoCarrier, a biotech start-up, to develop anti-cancer agents that can target a specific cancerous area and thereby have less negative and more positive side-effects. The two companies will develop anti-cancer agents that employ nanoparticles, which envelop cancer medicines and carry them to the affected area.

Mobile / Wireless

- Nine telecommunications firms to join an alliance for IP telephone services set up by NEC, KDDI, Japan Telecom and Matsushita Electric Industrial. Tokyo Telecommunication Network, DoCoMo AOL, Dream Train Internet and six other companies will join the grouping, which aims to start an IP telephone service in March 2003. The 13 firms have a total of 17 million subscribers.

Software

- Microsoft may disclose parts of its Windows operating system blueprints to the central and municipal governments. Its latest plan to introduce in Japan the Shared Source Initiative is meant to counter IBM Japan and others that have beefed up their sales efforts in open-source Linux-based operating systems. Microsoft has disclosed source code to the U.S., Swedish and Swiss governments.

Venture Capital / Investments

- Softbank in final negotiations with at least two overseas investment funds, including Cerberus Group, for the sale of Aozora Bank shares. Softbank, which has a roughly 49% stake in the bank, is poised to sell shares valued at around Y50 billion. If Softbank agrees to sell the shares to an overseas investment fund, Aozora Bank's business reforms would be led by an overseas lead shareholder.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Enix to buy Square for $764 million in cash and stock, combining the makers of "Dragon Quest" and "Final Fantasy," Japan's most popular role-playing video-game series. Square has sold more than 42 million copies of the "Final Fantasy" games worldwide, while Enix has sold 30 million copies of "Dragon Quest." Both games can be played on Sony's PlayStation 2 video-game consoles.

- Bandai to charge fees for some of its popular "Fortress" online video game services, for which the number of domestic registered players has now reached 380,000. The basic fees will be Y500 per month, and 1,200 yen for three months, although a limited service involving fewer game characters will continue to be available free of charge.

A week in Korea tech

Telecommunications

- Dacom close to sealing a deal to take over Powercomm, a unit of the state-run utility giant KEPCO, a development that could deal a blow to competing bidder Hanaro Telecom. Dacom is said to have narrowed the gap in pricing with KEPCO for acquiring Powercomm. Final details are being worked out, and Dacom and KEPCO are likely to go ahead with the Powercomm deal.

Mobile / Wireless

- Pantech & Curitel staging aggressive marketing campaigns and introducing new high-powered handset models. Pantech & Curitel used to focus on the handset export market but revised its strategy last month to solidify its brand recognition in the local market. The company aims to secure about a 15% share in the local handset market that has long been dominated by Samsung and LG.

Internet

- Korea's cyber-community industry is undergoing changes as major players ratchet up marketing efforts to attract new subscribers. The initial move was sparked by the controversial fee-based community service by Freechal. The fee-based Web service operator began to charge a monthly fee of W3,000 for subscribers who maintain Internet communities.

Semiconductors

- Hynix Semiconductor needs another massive debt restructuring that includes a W1.9 trillion ($1.57 billion) debt-for-equity swap. In a report to a meeting of Hynix creditors, Deutsche Bank also recommended that the chipmaker be allowed to roll over its remaining debt totaling W3 trillion until 2006. Otherwise, the chip maker would face a new cashflow crisis as early as the first half of next year.

Venture Capital / Investments

- Newbridge Capital forms a United States-Japan consortium to bid for Chohung Bank. Days before Monday's bid deadline for state-run Chohung, Newbridge has enlisted US investment fund Cerberus and Japan's Shinsei Bank in an attempt to buy Korea's fourth-largest bank. The move would extend the US fund's reach in Korea's banking sector.

Information Technology

- Korea's IT industry forecasted to see a slowdown in their growth rates over the next year. The Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade (KIET) said yesterday in its outlook for 2003 that the growth rate will be sluggish although the possibility of negative growth is highly unlikely. The report suggests that explosive growth in the technology sector is unlikely next year.

A week in China tech

Life Sciences

New rules aimed at protecting firms' patent rights polarize innovators and producers. The State Drug Administration (SDA) has announced that new drugs are now redefined as products that have not been previously approved for sale, either in China or overseas. Many mainland pharmaceutical firms are believed to have modeled products on medicine manufactured overseas to avoid R&D spending.

Mobile / Wireless

- China Telecom is to muscle into the lucrative mobile market by offering their IP service to cellular users. Customers using wireless operators China Mobile Communications Group or China United Telecommunications will soon be able to tap China Telecom's cheaper long-distance rates by dialing a standard code. The IP system carries voice over packet-based networks controlled by routers.

- ZTE wins a Rmb1.57 billion deal to supply equipment to China's No 2 mobile operator, beating foreign vendors that dominate the mainland market for telecom gear. ZTE will help China United upgrade its CDMA network to allow customers to download videos to cellphones. China United plans to double the user capacity of its CDMA network to 30 million as part of its second-phase expansion.

Software

- Concord Communications is to make an aggressive push into the mainland next year with initiatives in the telecommunications, financial services and government sectors. Hong Kong, where Concord has its Greater China headquarters, is expected to remain the company's launch pad for new technologies to be included in its flagship product, eHealth.

Venture Capital / Investments

- Datang Mobile to raise funds via private placement to help finance its 3G project. Datang Mobile has budgeted $170 million for the next two years to develop TD-SCDMA (time division synchronous code division multiple access) technology, a home-grown 3G wireless communications technology. Datang Mobile a year ago appointed Bank of China International to look for strategic investors.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia

Life Sciences

- EDB aims to broaden the base of Singapore's pharmaceuticals industry by diversifying into the emerging field of biologics manufacturing, which refers to the large-scale production of protein-based therapeutics. One of the first players is A-Bio Pharma, which will focus on the production of complex proteins such as monoclonal antibodies using mammalian cell culture technology.

Telecommunications

- Singapore Telecommunications has sold its 50% stake in Failsafe Corporation Singapore, which provides data and disaster recovery services. Singapore Telecom sold its stake to Failsafe Corporation Holdings, the other shareholder of the joint venture. Failsafe is Singapore's largest provider of data recovery services, with two centres that cost a total of $79.8 million to set up.

- C2C will expand into Malaysia through an alliance with Time dotCom. They will provide phone companies with networks that link Malaysian cities with other countries in Asia. C2C and Time dotCom said they plan to target local phone companies that need capacity for high-speed data transmission and international networks.

Mobile / Wireless

- Nokia is late in delivering a so-called third-generation network to MobileOne. The two companies are negotiating a new schedule. Nokia, which was to have delivered the software in the middle of 2002, but will probably deliver it in December. MobileOne said in 2000 it would pay Nokia $284 million over five years for new equipment including that needed for 3G networks.

Hardware

- Venture begins production of computer-related products at a new factory in China. The factory is about 100,000 sq ft, and might be expanded to 160,000. It plans to make computer networking equipment, printers and related products at the factory. Venture has bought two-thirds of Univac Precision Engineering this year and plants and equipment from Iomega and Agilent Technology.

Information Technology

- Datacraft Asia to revive its network systems integration business with an aggressive focus on Internet-based services to its major corporate customers. Emerging from 12 months of stagnant sales and a sweeping restructuring program, the company this week introduced a strategy for providing IP telephony systems and simplifying how these can be adopted for various business applications.

A week in Hong Kong tech

Internet

- Cathay Pacific, Travelocity and 16 major airline partners to launch Zuji.com.hk, two months after introducing the Singapore and Australia sites. The new travel site aims to put searches for travel fares and car rentals in the hands of the leisure traveler. Zuji has been compared with Orbitz in the US, is seen to have an advantage over other travel portals because of its airline investors.

- ESDlife alies with Info Mapping to allow workers to report in for their duties at ESDlife kiosks when they are out of the office. The DispatchPro outdoor worker management system connects to a company's network. The solution was developed with geographic information system and address coding technologies, enabling real-time visualisation of job progress and locations.

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