A week in tech

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

Japan

Telecommunications

- Yahoo! BB is to break even within several months, according to Softbank. The recent sharp growth in subscribers is attributed to its "BB Phone" Internet-based phone service. The Softbank group is prepared to raise the necessary funds to be employed in sales and facilities when cash flow turns positive, and plans to offer a cable TV service nationwide.

- Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ) is to launch a systems configuration service for start-ups that allows new businesses to lease space as required on servers and hard disks at its data centres. IIJ will configure systems for clients on leased server and hard-disk space at 11 nationwide data centres, which will be connected via a high-speed network.

- NEC, KDDI, Japan Telecom and Matsushita Electric Industrial to tie up on IP phone service. In December, each of the firms plans to start offering free phone calls between their own subscribers on a trial basis. The companies will also seek ways to cooperate with a planned three-firm IP phone partnership that includes Nifty and NTT Communications.

Mobile / Wireless

- Japan's seven largest ISPs to jointly offer an IP phone service next spring. The seven ISPs will allow about 2 million customers that use broadband communications services, such as ADSL and fiber-optic networks, to call each other free of charge via the IP phone network. Such customers make up roughly 10% of all of the firms' clients and are rapidly increasing.

- Three leading cellular phone companies pursue different strategies in a saturated market. DoCoMo and J-Phone have started putting more emphasis on profit, embarking on a rigorous cost-cutting drive, particularly in marketing. KDDI's au unit, meanwhile, has launched a business expansion strategy, aggressively marketing its CDMA2000 1x 3G phone released in April.

Internet

- IBM Japan is to launch an e-learning site that offers courses and sells educational materials aimed at users ranging from small and midsize businesses to students. The site will offer educational materials as well as some 330 courses in areas such as language and information technology. Certain benefits will be given to IBM PC users who want to take online courses.

- E-mail distribution service firm iBRIDGE acquires MeruClick for Y50 million in order to strengthen its online advertising operations. iBRIDGE's FruitMail service distributes gender and interest-focused content via e-mail to some 880,000 subscribers. About 300 agents gather ads for the service, which collects revenues by inserting topic-relevant ads into distributed content.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Sanrio and Bandai join forces to jointly develop character-based products, conduct sales campaigns and administer copyrights for such items. A team of three staff at each company has already developed a new character called Pop'n Berry. The companies plan to begin selling Pop'n Berry toys, miscellaneous goods, sweets and clothes through Bandai's toy sales channels and Sanrio outlets.

- Namco to strengthen sales of game machines to facilities that provide care for the elderly. It will team up with Nihon Medix within the year, entrusting sales to the firm. Namco has to date supplied 60 game machines to about 30 facilities. Namco aims to sell about 100-200 machines a year to facilities for the elderly. Facility operators buy them to distinguish their centers and nursing homes.

A week in Korea tech

e-Commerce

- 11 e-government projects have been completed, paving the way for full-fledged electronic administrative services. The 11 e-government projects, initiated early last year, required a host of different government agencies to coordinate for streamlined Internet-based administrative procedures and document handling.

Telecommunications

- KT and SK Telecom to swap their respective stakes in each other next year to boost shareholder value, dispelling lingering uncertainties and rumors about the trouble-laden deal. KT said it would swap its 9.27% stake, or 8.27 million shares, in SKT, for its rival's 9.64%, or 29.8 million shares, in KT. The companies priced KT's stock at W50,900 per share and SKT at W224,000 per issue.

Semiconductors

- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ask for rejection of case filed by Micron Technology with the U.S. Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission alleging that South Korean chip makers received government bailout packages and loan subsidies which violate U.S. countervailing duty laws and South Korea's WTO commitments.

Information Technology

- Korea seventh among the 30 countries in OECD in terms of competitiveness. The United States has secured the highest marks, followed by Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland and Britain. Korea's labor market, finance and venture sectors are lagging behind, and the government is yet to introduce more sophisticated legal and regulatory systems to nurture IT businesses.

A week in China tech

Mobile / Wireless

- Anoto Group is setting up operations in Beijing to expand the use of its digital image-processing technologies in China's telecommunications market. Anoto is signing an agreement with mainland firms CNUC Unicom Group and Tong Fang Shen Huo. The new company will provide a total solution for China Unicom, China Mobile and other Chinese enterprises.

- China Unicom to finalize details of its plan to acquire cellular networks in nine provinces. The move is part of a program to unite the firm's mobile-network assets within the listed vehicle to simplify its corporate structure and remove conflicts of interest with its parent. China Unicom plans to acquire the assets at about 30% discount to the market value of the listed firm.

Software

- Shenzhen expected to export $350 million of software this year, more than double the $165 million last year. The biggest local contributors to the total include hardware makers Zhongxing Telecommunications and Huawei Technologies, which also make software for equipment such as telecommunications networking gear.

Internet

- AOL has begun testing a pay internet service. Trials of the service, a joint venture with China's biggest PC maker Legend, began in August and are now taking place in about three dozen Chinese cities. The new service, whose name in Chinese translates as "Flying Dragon", now had several hundred beta users, most of whom were recruited over the Internet.

Hardware

- Legend Group posts a better than expected 26.5% year-on-year rise in net profit in the three months to September. However, growth in sales revenue slowed to 2.3% year on year. United States giant Dell Computer, the world's biggest PC maker, recently launched a discount campaign on the mainland, threatening the Hong Kong-listed market leader.

- Sony to simultaneously launch all new products in Japan and China. The impetus for the initiative was projections that Sony sales in China would surpass those in Japan by 2008. Sony's sales in China reached $1 billion last year. The company has put down deep roots in China since it formed wholly owned subsidiary Sony (China) Ltd, in 1996. The company employs about 10,000 staff in the mainland.

- UMC increases efforts to tailor advanced assembly machines and software to the needs of consumer electronics goods producers on the mainland. That initiative followed its opening last May of a $1 million, 6,000-square-foot technology research and training facility in Suzhou, East of Shanghai.

A week in Taiwan tech

Mobile / Wireless

- Chunghwa Telecom suspends a $348 million contract from Nokia while the government examines complaints from Nortel Networks about the bidding process. Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson of Sweden and Siemens AG of Germany also took part. Nortel, whose bid for the supply contract was the lowest, at NT$7.98 billion, has complained that it is unclear why Nokia's pricier bid won.

Semiconductors

- Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) begins building a $1.25 billion plant in Beijing and hopes to complete it in as little as two years. The Shanghai plant is one of the first leading foreign-financed semiconductor foundries in China, and is backed by a consortium of private equity investors including H&Q Asia Pacific, Walden International and Vertex Management.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia tech

Telecommunications

- Pacific Internet posts a profit in the third quarter after luring more customers to its high-speed Internet services. Net income in the month ending September 30 was $271,000 compared with a loss of $1.1 million in the year-earlier period. The Nasdaq-listed company's chief executive, Tan Tong Hai, said it aimed to make $1.5 million in profit this year.

Semiconductors

- AMD to cut about 2,000 jobs, or 15% of its workforce, from its operations in the United States, Europe and Asia by the middle of next year. 300 jobs in Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong would be affected, with most of the cuts taking place in Singapore. The cost cuts would not include its China operations.

Information Technology

- Agilent to cut 200 jobs in Singapore next month, or 7% of its workforce on the island, after saying in September it would fire more employees worldwide to reduce costs. To help reduce costs, Agilent will also shut down its Singapore factories for a week starting on December 4, and another the first week of February. Both will coincide with public holidays.

- DBS Group signs 10-year outsourcing deal with IBM for IT services worth an expected $684 million. IBM Global Services has agreed to employ 500 DBS staff who will help to manage data centers in Singapore and Hong Kong, and run a helpdesk system for DBS employees. IBM would build new computing facilities for DBS in Hong Kong and Singapore.

A week in Hong Kong tech

Life Sciences

- Net losses at CK Life Sciences International (Holdings) grows 63.51% year on year in the nine months to September 30. CK Life Sciences reported a net loss of HK$60.44 million, up from HK$36.96 million over the same period last year. Sales of its only commercial product, the fertilizer NutriSmart, to Australia, its biggest market, generated revenue of HK$949,000.

Telecommunications

- PCCW to raise at least $61 million from sale of stake in MobileOne Asia (M1) next month. In what would be Singapore's largest IPO in three years, M1 hopes to sell between 57% and 70% of its existing shares to raise up to $631 million. Based on the listing information, PCCW is entitled to about 15.43 million shares in M1, of which a maximum of 10.8 million can be sold in the IPO.

- Sunevision to concentrate on targeting multinational vendors for its data centres. Sunevision's iAdvantage data-centres account for about half of its revenue. Recent customer wins include First Data Corporation, which will become a client in its China data centres, and NTT Asia and China Motion Telecom which will take up space in Hong Kong. Overall occupancy was 55%.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Lai Sun Development to sell its 32.75% stake in Asia Television to the broadcaster's chief executive, Chan Wing-kee. Mr. Chan will pay HK$360 million cash through vehicle Dragon Goodwill International, a company in which he holds 80%. The purchase will lift his stake to about 45 percent. Phoenix Satellite Television chief Liu Changle will remain ATV's major shareholder.

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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