A week in tech

A round-up of all the latest tech news.

A week in Japan tech


- Sharp Corp. and other Japanese electronics manufacturers are increasing LCD panel production in order to meet the growing demand for LCD televisions. Japanese firms have seen their share slip below those of their South Korean and Taiwanese rivals in the market for LCD panels for personal computers. But they want to maintain their dominant position in the market for panels for TVs requiring more sophisticated technology. Sharp in May boosted monthly production by 10% at a TV panel plant raising output from 100,000 units to 110,000. The increased production enables the company to turn out the equivalent of 40,000 more 20-inch TVs.

- The long-dormant Japanese IPO market may be heating up aided by a rising Japanese stock market. The two biggest planned IPOs this year are Seiko Epson Corp.'s offering that would raise ¥15 billion ($126.7 million) and NEC Electronics Corp. plans to raise ¥88 billion ($749.1 million) in an IPO of its own.

Life Sciences

- Toshiba Corp. plans to enter the market for genetic analysis equipment for medical institutions. The firm will focus on making small, easy-to-use products that can be used virtually anywhere. Toshiba is a relative latecomer to this business segment, but hopes to make up ground by focusing on medical institutions rather than university research facilities. Toshiba has already developed a DNA chip that can be used to analyze genetic material found in blood or elsewhere. The firm's small equipment will be priced at about ¥5 million ($42,200), roughly one-quarter as much as the large analytic machines designed for laboratory use. The new equipment will make it easier to determine interactions between genes and drugs.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Nintendo Co. has won compensation from a Hong Kong company in its first successful anti-piracy case against a distributor of software-copying devices. The High Court ordered Hong Kong-based Lik Sang International Ltd. to pay Nintendo interim damages of HK$5 million ($641,000) and to foot its legal bills, said Yasuhiro Minagawa, a Nintendo spokesman. Nintendo has previously won lawsuits against vendors of pirated games, but this is the first time the game maker has successfully sued a distributor of copying devices, Mr. Minagawa said.

Mobile / Wireless

- NTT DoCoMo Inc. will furnish Italy's third-largest mobile phone service company, Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA, with technology and know-how relating to DoCoMo's i-mode mobile Internet access service under a technological collaboration agreement. DoCoMo is already supplying i-mode technology to various mobile phone service providers in Europe, including ones in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands. Thanks to the collaboration with Wind, DoCoMo will have a system in place to develop i-mode operations in six major countries in Europe. i-mode users number around 38 million in Japan and total 600,000 abroad. Of foreign i-mode users, 500,000 are in Europe and 100,000 are in Taiwan.

- KDDI Corp. said it will launch a wireless payment service on a trial basis starting July 3rd and set up a new shopping website on its "EZweb" mobile Internet service. Through the moves, KDDI is looking to gain a foothold in Japan's rapidly growing mobile electronic commerce market. By using the new service, subscribers to KDDI's mobile phone handsets will be able to buy a wide range of products via the EZweb service in a secure and convenient manner, KDDI said. The firm said 33 companies, including contents providers and application service providers, are scheduled to participate in its shopping portal site.


- Toshiba Corp. has developed the basic technology to mount DRAM chips on SOI (silicon on insulator) wafers, the company said. The technology is expected to enable Toshiba, which has developed a memory cell structure that does require capacitors, to embed DRAMs with a line width of 45 nanometers on SOI wafers. Toshiba aims to commercialize the chip-mounting technology in or after 2006, with an eye toward marketing it for use in mounting DRAMs on system chips for high-speed computer networks.

- NEC Electronics, a semiconductor business that was spun off from NEC Corp., plans to sell 23.5 million new shares to the public at an estimated price of ¥3,750 ($31.7) each. The deal includes 9.9 million shares to be offered to domestic investors and 13.6 million for overseas investors. The parent NEC will offer part of its holdings, or 10.5 million shares. An additional three million shares held by NEC could be sold in an expected over-allotment option, in the event of exceptional public demand. The company had been widely expected to make its debut on the Tokyo exchange this year, as it needs funds, partly to build production lines for next-generation 300-millimeter chips. The spinoff was designed to help the NEC unit generate funds for chip-related investment, as well as create a certain level of independence in management decision-making. The step also underscored parent NEC's need to improve its financial standing, which earlier was severely damaged by huge losses at its chip operations. NEC Electronics focuses on research, development, manufacturing, sales and support of chip businesses, except for commodity dynamic random access memory chips. Those operations have been integrated into Elpida Memory Inc., a joint venture between Hitachi Ltd. and NEC.


- The number of Japanese software & information technology companies fell by 219 firms from the end of September 2002 to 35,887 in total, according to a study by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. The decline was the first ever since the ministry began compiling such data. The ministry believes that the market's explosive growth is diminishing at the same time that existing companies are preventing new firms to enter the field by bolstering business barriers to entry.


- NTT Data Corp. slashed its group net profit outlook for the first half through September to ¥5 billion ($42.2 million) due to costs related to the reorganization of group companies. The firm previously expected an ¥11 billion ($92.9 million) profit. NTT Data plans to book an extraordinary loss of ¥11 billion ($92.9 million) in the first half due to the reorganization.

A week in Korea tech

Information Technology

- Samsung Electronics and KT Corp.'s upcoming alliance is forecast to bring vast changes to related businesses in the near future. The nation's top companies in the information-technology sector announced their decision to jointly develop new business fields that combine digital appliances with cable and wireless telecommunication services. After signing a memorandum of understanding, the two will be cooperating to discover next-generation business fields, develop new applications for digital convergence and pioneer new markets worldwide.


- Yahoo! Korea, a major portal service provider, said it will launch a peer-to-peer knowledge search service, joining the race to set up a database of intelligence with the help of active Web surfers. A host of Korean Web portals are currently offering what is called "knowledge search," a service of database filled with practical and detailed information about many topics. Yahoo! Korea said its service would be based on the popular question-and-answer format in which online users share information about specific topics through a vast database on the Web. Experts will contribute to the company's new database for select areas like laws, health and science, Yahoo! Korea said. The company's move came after Naver.com and Empas staged fierce competition to stay ahead in the fast-evolving knowledge search market.

Mobile / Wireless

- KTF, Korea's second-largest mobile carrier, said it would allow its subscribers to log on to Microsoft's instant messenger programs, underscoring the convergence of the Internet and wireless technologies. The MSN messenger service pieces together the wireless Internet and real-time instant messenger services. The company's subscribers with latest handsets such as SPH-X9000 will be able to exchange real-time messages with their friends and colleagues who are hooked up to the Internet network through conventional PCs.

A week in China tech


- Legend Group is to overhaul its procurement system for its computer-related products and services through an alliance with supply management specialist FreeMarkets. Legend signed an agreement with FreeMarkets to use its FullSource software and services platform. The deal will enable Legend to cut costs and increase efficiency in buying raw materials and key services for its growing operations. Financial details were not disclosed. FreeMarkets offers enterprises a way to increase savings and reduce supply risk through a Web-based business-to-business auction system that enables suppliers to bid for tenders.

Mobile / Wireless

- China Unicom has revealed it spent Rmb1.46 billion ($175.6 million) on handset subsidies to sign up subscribers for its CDMA network in the first quarter of this year. It also revealed that the company's total mobile subscriber growth -- covering both CDMA and GSM -- fell 15.7% month-on-month in May. China Unicom reported it signed up 1.5 million new mobile subscribers last month to bring its user base to 68.1 million, representing a 15.7% month-on-month decline in growth from April.

- China Unicom said it had 9.2 CDMA subscribers at the end of May, against 8.6 million a month earlier. The firm said the number of its global system of mobile (GSM) services subscribers also rose to 58.9 million as of May from 58.1 million at end-April. CDMA subscribers in its original 12 provincial mobile networks increased to 6.8 million as of the end of May, from 6.3 million at the end of April, while GSM subscribers in these 12 provincial networks increased to 42.1 million as of the end of May, from 41.6 million at the end of April. CDMA subscribers in its nine newly acquired provincial mobile networks increased to 2.5 million as of the end of May, from 2.3 million at the end of April, while GSM subscribers in these provinces increased to 16.8 million as of the end of May, from 16.4 million at the end of April.

A week in Taiwan tech


- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has applied to Taiwan's stock market regulator to issue $957.6 million worth of American Depositary Receipts, according to officials at Taiwan's Securities and Futures Commission. The company submitted its application but the amount of the conversion was misstated on the SFC Web site as $95.6 million. The issue will be a conversion of 450 million Taiwan common shares into ADRs, not a new share issue. Merrill Lynch is listed on the application as the investment banking firm handling the conversion. The SFC will decide whether or not to approve the issuance within three months. With the present application, the conversion ratio sought will be five Taiwan shares for each ADR. The conversion will likely have an impact on the price of TSMC's ADRs since it will increase the total amount of ADRs by around 25% once the transaction is finalized.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia / Philippines / Indonesia tech

Mobile / Wireless

- One in three people in the Philippines had mobile telephones, including many of its poorest citizens, according to a nationwide survey by Pulse Asia. The survey concluded that at least 34 per cent of the 80 million Filipinos have cellular phones, with 63% of the upper to upper-middle classes now owning the devices. The survey of 1,200 people found at least 17% of the poorest sector also had mobile phones. The cheapest handsets here now cost about 2,000 pesos ($37).

- Telekom Malaysia said there might be room for more mergers in Malaysia's cellular sector but an analyst ruled out any immediate merger activities. Mohamad Khir Abdul Rahman, Telekom's chief executive said competition in the mobile industry had narrowed to three players but the near future is still uncertain. Telekom Malaysia, Malaysia's fixed line leader, merged its mobile unit with former rival Celcom, Malaysia's second-largest cellular operator. Telekom Malaysia now holds 93.3 per cent of Celcom Malaysia after a general offer for shares and expects the unit to be delisted from the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. Malaysia's top mobile operator, Maxis Communications, had also secured its shareholders' approval to buy cellular assets of rival Time dot.Com.


- PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia said it could appoint a new auditor as early as this week in a bid to comply with U.S. SEC regulations. The SEC last week rejected Telkom's 2002 financial report on the grounds that it was not audited by a company accredited with the SEC. Telkom has to resubmit the reports by June 30, with an option to extend the deadline to July 15. Telkom has said it is unlikely to meet the deadline even if it is extended, citing difficulties in finding a suitable auditor. There is a limited number of SEC-recognized auditing firms in Indonesia, and several of them may not be able to audit Telkom due to a conflict of interest, Telkom said in a statement. Failure to comply with the SEC's deadline may result in the delisting of Telkom's American depository receipts traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Telkom officials have said it didn't expect the new audit to produce different financial results.

A week in Hong Kong tech


- E*trade is pulling the plug on its Hong Kong stock trading service next month, saying it wants to shift focus back to United States trading. Asia-Pacific vice-president John Lord denied the company's exit was due to a poor performance in an overcrowded market. The brokerage posted a notice on its Hong Kong website yesterday saying it would terminate its local trading service on July 16.

- Sunday Communications has introduced a monthly flat rate for unlimited broadband access using a general packet radio service (GPRS) network. The HK$38 (US$4.9) package is a promotional rate for Sunday customers on offer until May 30th next year, effective immediately. It is seen as a bid to boost Hong Kong's weak market for mobile data services. However, other mobile carriers will probably not be following Sunday's example.

Mobile / Wireless

- Transmeta has bought a stake in Linux specialist Chinese 2000 Holdings, a company run by Hong Kong firms eForce and Culturecom, to drive its Asia expansion and diversify its business. Their agreement will allow Chinese 2000 to push research and sales involving Midori, Transmeta's version of the Linux operating system, for mobile and chip-embedded devices in China and other markets in the Asia-Pacific region. The initial focus of their development and marketing efforts will be Greater China. The two firms have struck a multi-year profit-sharing deal for the sale of Midori Linux-based services and support. Financial details and the size of the share sold to Transmeta were not disclosed.

- CSL, Hong Kong's No 2 mobile carrier, will delay the launch of its third-generation (3G) services until next year, citing a price war among mobile phone operators. Chief executive Hubert Ng Ching-wah said CSL will now probably launch its high-speed data service in the first quarter of next year-- at least six months behind its original schedule. Rival Hutchison Telecommunications however has indicated it will announce its 3G launch this month.


- PCCW Ltd. named the head of Hong Kong's subway-system company as its chief, passing over a former Lucent executive who joined the company only a year ago. Jack So, 58 years old, will move to PCCW from MTR Corp. by the end of September, when his contract with the company that operates Hong Kong's underground railway will expire, PCCW said. He will assume the position of group managing director, the retitled post of the company's chief executive.

- Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. and its flagship associate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. said Standard & Poor's ratings downgrade on the group is unwarranted because of the companies' solid financial position. S&P lowered its ratings on Hutchison and Cheung Kong to single-A-minus from single-A to reflect the ports-to-telecom conglomerate's exposure to its third-generation wireless operation in Europe and the accompanying increase in debt levels. Although Cheung Kong owns 49.9% of Hutchison, the conglomerate accounts for 61% of Cheung Kong's 2002 total assets.

- The former Asia Global Crossing denies aggressively cutting prices to snatch clients in a business suffering from serious oversupply. However, its rivals and customers indicate otherwise. Phoenix TV is among many new customers Asia Netcom, the former Asia Global Crossing, has won over in the past couple of months since being rescued in March by a consortium led by China Netcom. Starting this month, Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings is using Asia Netcom's networks to broadcast its programs to the United States market.

- Analysts are questioning an apparent licensing glut at PCCW, with the firm having won 13 wireless broadband licenses through auction in Britain. While the £6.3 million ($10.6 million) spent for the licenses gives PCCW a slice of the region's high-frequency 3.4-gigahertz spectrum -- which enables it to deliver voice, video and other broadband services -- further investment will be needed to build a successful business. Still required is investment in base stations, switching equipment and advertising to build brand recognition and turn an untested technology into a viable business.

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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