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

- SC BioSciences teams up with two foreign bioventures to offer a drug candidate exploratory service to Japanese pharmaceutical companies. SC BioSciences will work with Proteom to conduct detailed analysis of protein data on behalf of drug companies, and with Isis Pharmaceuticals to determine the functions of genes and create substances that can inhibit the activity of disease-related genes.

Telecommunications

- NTT Communications to begin outsourcing corporate IP networking services. The company will develop business through subsidiaries in the U.S., Hong Kong, Australia and elsewhere to meet the needs of multinational corporations. NTT Communications will employ IP-VPN and wide-area Ethernet technology to establish networks in and among 87 countries.

Mobile / Wireless

- Cybird to sell CDs and DVDs through cellular phone networks, jointly with Kadokawa Shoten Publishing. Tokyo Walker and other city guide magazines published by Kadokawa will feature special pages offering new music CDs and DVDs. Cybird will edit the pages and ship the products ordered. Revenue from the service will be divided between the two partners in an undisclosed proportion.

Software

- NEC launches a new SCM system that reduces to as little as four days the time needed from the drafting of sales-performance-based production plans to the manufacture and delivery of products. Configured at a cost of some 3 billion yen, the new value chain management system integrates data from sales and production units, parts suppliers and overseas manufacturing facilities.

Venture Capital / Investments

- Softbank sells 17.5 million shares in Yahoo for $294 million, cutting its stake in the US Internet portal to 4% from 7%. In 1996, Softbank held 37% of Yahoo and at the height of the Internet bubble its stake was worth billions of dollars, but it has been selling off its shares in the US portal in an effort to slash its debts and finance its ADSL Internet access business.

Hardware

- IBM Japan and Cisco Systems partner in the storage business. Cisco has developed a switch used in creating SANs (storage area networks), which link multiple servers and storage hardware. The switch is compatible with the iSCSI and Fibre Channel standards. Under the partnership, IBM Japan and group member ProStorage will both start selling Cisco's switch.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Viacom to build a movie theme park in Fukuoka Prefecture and is calling for investment from Japanese companies. If the Viacom project materializes, Japan will have three theme parks that originated in the U.S., including Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan. The project faces intensifying competition among theme parks and Japan's protracted economic clump.

- Yuke's Co. develops tools for creating online games for PlayStation 2. In addition to other aspects of games, developers must create technology to control communications including interactive chats when creating Internet games. Yuke's is licensing the technology, which is compatible with the communications service for online games launched by KDDI, to software development firms.

A week in Korea tech

Telecommunications

- Telco companies to invest $10.84 billion on high-speed broadband networks by 2005, according to the Ministry of Information and Communication. As of October 10, the number of broadband internet subscribers surpassed 10 million, a ministry spokesman said. KT had the largest number of broadband subscribers at 4.6 million, followed by Hanaro with 2.9 million, and Korea Thrunet with 1.3 million.

- KT 3Q net profit nearly doubles year-on-year to W305.7 billion, helped by lower non-operating expenses and higher compensation for offering telephone services to remote areas. But it said it expects to be unprofitable in the fourth quarter after spending more on high-speed Internet services to compensate for slumping fixed-line sales.

Mobile / Wireless

- LG Telecom share of the wireless telecommunications market shrinks to 14.63% in October. KTF attracted 112,000 new customers in the same period for 10.49 million customers, expanding its market share to 32.46% at the end of last month. SK Telecom, the market leader, experienced a 0.08 percentage point reduction in its market share in the face of the government's crackdown on handset subsidies.

- KTF purchases a 15% stake in KT ICOM in a deal valued at $217.1 million. KTF is now hinting at the possibility of acquiring an additional stake in KT ICOM, sparking speculation that it would speed up the merger process. KTF management appears to be willing to accelerate the small-scale merger so that the company can start its 2003 fiscal year as a new entity.

A week in China tech

Telecommunications

- China Telecom to cut its capital expenditure budget for the next two years by Rmb8.32 billion. According to its revised listing prospectus, the mainland fixed-line giant has cut its capital expenditure budget for 2003-04 to Rmb48.5 billion. This is down from Rmb56.82 billion for the two years in its first prospectus.

- UTStarcom to provide $35 million worth of telecommunications equipment to China Netcom. Under the latest deal, Alameda, California-based UTStarcom will supply gear for Netcom's fixed-line network in north China's Heilongjiang province. UTStarcom has won contracts worth a combined $80 million with China Telecom and China Netcom in the last month.

- AT&T is pessimistic about foreign companies' prospects in China. AT&T (China) president Arthur Kobler said domestic interests were resisting reform, multinationals would have to accept multiple setbacks and cautioned foreign investors to avoid falling into the black hole of the "China growth market."

Mobile / Wireless

- Growth of Internet and mobile phone use in China to spur wireless data uptake. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), China overtook the United States as the country with the most mobile subscribers last year. The ITU report predicted the growth of the mobile Internet would follow the same growth pattern because of the high penetration rate of mobile phones in the country and the growing popularity of SMS.

Software

- Microsoft to open a software training centre in the city of Nanjing in Jiangsu province with Jiangsu NandaSoft, a maker of network security software. The centre will assist software developers throughout Jiangsu. Microsoft and NandaSoft engineers will also work with each other at the facility. Microsoft already has similar training facilities in Beijing and Shanghai.

Internet

- China Travel International Investment (CTII) to pay PCCW and Softbank Investment International (Strategic) HK$80 million for the 20% it does not already own in an online ticketing operator. The acquisition price was arrived at with an estimate that China Travel Net and its subsidiaries would generate a net profit of HK$44 million for the financial year to December 31.

Hardware

- Sun Microsystems denies Microsoft will overshadow Sun's position in China. Andy Lark, vice-president of Sun's global communications and marketing, said while Sun's stand was open-source, the software titan's was proprietary. "Many governments, including the Chinese government, see the benefits [of open-source] and that's why they are demanding Microsoft's source-code," he said.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Jiangxi is requiring 3,200 Internet cafe users to buy access cards that identify them to police, further tightening official monitoring of who uses the Internet and what they do online. Jiangxi's system requires customers to register their names, ages and addresses, information which is then loaded into a police database. More than 200,000 users had obtained cards so far.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia tech

Telecommunications

- SingTel wins a multi-million dollar deal with insurance firm Marsh to manage a virtual private network (VPN) for the latter's Asia-Pacific operations. SingTel did not reveal the value of the deal. But an associated two-year deal won by Optus earlier to manage all of Marsh's voice services in Australia is worth $3.2 million.

Mobile / Wireless

- MobileOne refutes rival StarHub's claim to be the first to offer MMS to Hong Kong. M1 said HK CSL had confirmed that M1 - not StarHub - was first in Singapore to offer the service. However, a spokesman for StarHub said Hong Kong CSL approved its media release claiming to be first. M1 said its customers can send and receive MMS in 25 countries and territories.

- MobileOne indicates a price range of $1.30 to $1.60 a share for its IPO. M1, which has approval is set to kick-off book building for the deal with a roadshow in Hong Kong. The company, which has a third of the mobile phone market in Singapore, has issued some 1.05 billion shares which would give it a market value of between $1.37 billion and $1.68 billion at the indicated prices.

Venture Capital / Investments

- UOB in talks with several mainland lenders with a view to buying into a mainland group as competition mounts in its small home market. There is speculation that one of the targets could be Fujian Industrial Bank - the mainland's 12th-largest lender, based in Fuzhou.

Hardware

- Toshiba and Matsushita Electric Industrial open a $1 billion plant in Singapore to make LCDs for computers and televisions. The plant will position Singapore to cash in on the emerging LCD market, currently worth $35 billion globally a year. This market is expected to grow at 17% annually due to the growing popularity of PDAs, slim television panels and computer monitors.

A week in Hong Kong tech

Mobile / Wireless

- Hutchison Whampoa keeping 3G plans under wraps in the face of skepticism over a commercial launch planned for this year. Hutchison scheduled the fourth quarter of this year for the launch of "3", its 3G mobile brand in Britain and Italy. The company started delivering 3G handsets to 1,000 users last month, but since then has given no details on progress. The company stressed it has no launch deadline.

Software

- IBM Software announces a new software solution called Dynamic Workplaces, consisting of four upgrades to its Lotus software that will enable enterprises to increase efficiency through advanced collaboration technology. Dynamic Workplaces was deployed in IBM for six months before the announcement. The solution reached all 330,000 of its employees worldwide.

Internet

- Priceline.com to cut its workforce by 15% after its 3Q loss swells to $24.2 million. The lay-offs will not affect Hutchison-Priceline.com, a 65:35 joint venture between Hutchison Whampoa and Priceline that is recording growth in air-ticket sales and hotel bookings. Hutchison-Priceline.com is continuing to offer promotions as part of its marketing strategy.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Tom.com is in the hunt for entertainment media assets as it continues its quest to build a cross-media platform for the Greater China region. Chief executive Sing Wang said Tom.com would be interested in investing in television and video production, and TV advertising agencies, but declined to confirm whether it was interested in TV or pay-TV stations.

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