A week in tech

A round-up of all the key tech news in Asia.

A week in Japan tech

Life Sciences

- Affymetrix lowers prices on mainstay products in Japan by as much as 70%. The US firm aims to make a comeback in the Japanese market, where domestic companies are expanding their own shares, by cutting prices to their levels. Affymetrix Japan earlier this month lowered the price of a mainstay DNA chip by about 20% to Y260,000.

Telecommunications

- KDDI considering possible legal action against a hike in NTT connection fees. In late March, a telecommunications ministry advisory panel said it approved the ministry's proposal for the rate hike, which will raise access fees at NTT's regional arms by around 5% on average over the next two years from April.

Internet

- Government to eliminate the license requirement for setting up wireless LAN base stations, requiring service providers to register the stations instead. By doing so, the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry hopes to make it easier to set up wireless LANs and thereby spread the use of the technology. In addition, it aims to expand the areas serviced by wireless LAN base stations.

Semiconductors

- Toshiba to get financial help from Sony to build one of two state-of-the-art microchip plants. Sony will shoulder part of the cost of building the plant in Southern Japan for chip production using 300 millimeter wafers, which are up to 30% cheaper to manufacture than current-generation 200mm wafers. Toshiba announced plans for two new plants costing a total of $2.92 billion in December 2002.

Hardware

- Toshiba and Mitsubishi Electric creating JV to combine factory electrical equipment business. The new company, which will start business in October, will combine operations with 2,300 employees and sales of ¥140 billion ($1.17 billion), and will manufacture a range of equipment, including large-capacity motors and computerized control systems for factories.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Namco proposes merger with rival Sega. The news adds Namco to a list of potential Sega suitors that includes Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Japanese pinball-machine-maker Sammy. It also makes Namco, creator of the Tekken fighting game, the latest Japanese maker of game software to explore mergers as a way to weather a harsh business environment.

Information Technology

- Systems developer Nippon Intelligence to insure PCs against viruses and hackers. The service covers the cost of repairing personal computers damaged by viruses or invaded by hackers, sources close to the matter said Monday. The service will be offered jointly with AIU Insurance Co., the Japanese unit of US insurer American International Group.

A week in Korea tech

Internet

- Korea Thrunet to select a financial adviser by mid-May to move forward with a merger and acquisition plan. The high-speed Internet access provider said it will receive applications through April 28 to select an M&A adviser. KT has said it is reviewing the possibility of purchasing Korea Thrunet while Dacom has also expressed interest.

- Dacom to launch a new wireless Internet service called "AirLAN" using the broadband infrastructure of Powercomm. The company said the new service, based on 2.4GHz range, has a coverage of 50 meters, allowing subscribers to access the broadband Internet freely compared with existing wireless LAN (local area network) services.

Hardware

- Samsung Electronics posts sharper-than-expected drop in first-quarter earnings. Net income for the quarter ended March 31 declined 41% from a year earlier to $932 million. Revenue fell by 3.3% from a year earlier, and by 11% from the fourth quarter of 2002, to W9.6 trillion, amid weak memory-chip prices and fierce competition in the handset market.

- LG Electronics first-quarter net profit fell 11.6% as a result of losses from investments in its two joint ventures. Sales surged 17% on robust shipments of mobile handsets overseas and demand for premium home-appliance products. Net profit for the three months ended March 31 fell to W194.4 billion ($160.3 million) from W219.8 billion a year earlier.

- LG Electronics has developed 50-inch PDP (plasma display panel) TV that comes with a built-in digital tuner, marking the first of its kind in the fast-evolving high-end display market. LG said the new PDP model allows viewers to get both analogue and digital broadcasting without installing additional set-top box.

A week in China tech

Software

- IDC says global companies dominate in China's software market, holding between 60% and 70% market share. However, selling more complex software systems to corporate customers can still be a viable business. A favourite of many analysts is Beijing UFSoft, a maker of accounting software. Hong Kong-listed Kingdee International Software Group also makes accounting software.

Internet

- Sina.com joins about 200 internet portals in a government-backed search engine alliance that challenges global giants such as Google. The search engine - developed by the China Internet Information Center and Chinese firm Sinobet in September last year - links to a database of more than 30,000 mainland portals, including most of China's key official news Web sites.

A week in Singapore/ Malaysia tech

Semiconductors

- Chartered Semiconductor reports a narrower loss for the first quarter, but the chip maker warned that its results could worsen in the current quarter amid a slow recovery in global chip demand. Chartered Semiconductor reported a loss of $75.7 million, compared with a $128.4 million net loss a year earlier.

Venture Capital / Investments

- Singapore's two main semiconductor firms are expected to post smaller first-quarter losses as the chip industry crawls out of a record two-year slump but weak demand means profitability remains a distant hope. Chartered Semiconductor has underperformed the Straits Times Index by 22 per cent in the past six months. ST Assembly has gained about 10 per cent since the start of the year.

A week in Hong Kong tech

Telecommunications

- PCCW's undersea cable joint venture Reach offers voluntary redundancy to more than 500 staff to cut costs. Reach, a 50-50 venture with Australia's Telstra, has offered seven months' wages to employees in Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Japan and Britain for early retirement. The staff have been given until next month to respond.

- PCCW and Australia's Telstra have struck a deal with bankers to delay repayment of $1.2 billion in debt from their troubled undersea cable joint venture, Reach, until the end of 2010. Under the new arrangement, Telstra and PCCW will inject $286 million in cash into the venture in what amounts to an effective bailout.

Mobile / Wireless

- Hutchison's Australian subsidiary launched the country's first 3G mobile service, gambling the company's future on Asia's first 3G launch outside Japan. After soft launches in Britain and Italy, Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia) is committing A$3 billion to 3G technology that has been delayed by market leaders Telstra and Singapore Telecommunications' Australian unit Optus.

Software

- The share price of server-based solutions provider Tiger Tech triples on its GEM trading debut on Wednesday. Tiger Tech is a vendor of thin-client solutions, which allow companies to run applications from a server, rather than the traditional fat-client computing or mainframe model that requires devices with high processing power.

- Technology may help to contain future virus outbreaks. State-of-the-art computer-simulated epidemics used by the US military in defence program against biological warfare may prove useful in halting the spread of the virus, according to Hong Kong-based Artificial Life Inc. The company develops applications using advanced mathematical and computer theories for hi-tech industries.

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:

www.irg.bizIRG logo