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

- Bioventure Post Genome Institute is to team up with Daiichi Pure Chemicals to develop a way to synthesize radioactively labeled proteins for use in animal experiments. Post Genome Institute has the technology for artificially synthesizing proteins in the test tube. The new radiolabeled proteins are made using that technique with amino acids that incorporate a radio isotope that naturally emits beta rays.

Telecommunications

- PoweredCom and Tokyo Telecommunication Network to merge on April 1, 2003. The new company will be named PoweredCom, though the surviving entity will be Tokyo Telecommunication Network, known as TTNet. The new company will offer individuals fixed-line telephone and Internet connection services, as well as IP telephone services.

- Nippon Telegraph and Telephone is to invest almost Y300 billion over the next five years to build a state-of-the-art communications network that can transmit higher-quality video through broadband communications lines with greater reliability. The company will offer the network to group and nongroup firms as new broadband communications infrastructure.

Mobile / Wireless

- Matsushita Electric Industrial and Nokia are to jointly develop technology for connecting cell phones and home electronics over the internet. They plan to commercialize products using proprietary technology starting around fiscal 2003. Matsushita Electric will devise specifications for home electronics products, while Nokia will handle the cell phone side of the joint project.

- NEC to develop a wireless data transmission system with throughput of 1.5 gigabits per second, about 30 times that of a regular wireless LAN system. The system can transmit data over a distance of about 10 meters. When fitted onto railroad tracks or installed along roads, the new system can transmit moving images to trains and cars. The company plans to begin sample shipments to firms next year.

Software

- Oracle is to carry out drastic reform of its marketing operations, as the IT boom that fueled the firm's rapid growth has ended. The company will concentrate efforts to earn 30% of software sales from the medical and public institution sectors by fiscal 2004. For the application software business, it intends to target customers of database software operations it has been serving for years.

Internet

- Entertainment Plus teams with NTT Data to offer a new type of e-ticket that doubles as an e-cash card used to purchase souvenirs, food and beverages at the event. The new e-ticket will come in the form of a contactless smart card that also incorporates the Edy system of electronic cash promoted by bitWallet.

- More than one in three Japanese internet users get their net access via broadband transmission systems such as the ADSL service. The survey found 37.1% of people who use the internet on PCs at home were getting broadband high-speed, large-capacity access. Most of the broadband users were getting the ADSL service, partly because of its low price, making up 22.1% of the 37.1%.

Semiconductors

- NEC and Hitachi to invest a combined $365 million to increase production of memory chips at their joint venture. The companies, which have already invested Y52 billion in the venture called Elpida Memory, will spend the funds by March. Elpida will also seek outside investors. To compete with bigger rivals such as Samsung Electronics, Elpida needs to expand capacity to achieve economies of scale.

Venture Capital / Investments

- A record 281 M&A deals involving listed start-ups conducted in the first 10 months of this year, up 13 from the total for all of last year. Some new ventures took over the unprofitable subsidiaries of large companies as well as promising unlisted firms, while struggling start-ups were acquired by major corporations.

Hardware

- Teac to launch a new sales firm for computer peripherals in Shanghai, China. The new base will sell DVD drives and other peripherals to Taiwanese suppliers under an OEM agreement and provide services as well. The company aims to rake in Y10 billion in sales in fiscal 2006. The new firm is expected to be capitalized at $250,000 for a total investment of $357,000.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Sega and RealNetworks to offer classic Sega games on the PC. The two companies will offer a number of games from Sega's early 1990s' Genesis game console through RealOne Arcade, RealNetworks' gaming service. Among the notable titles available at launch are "Sonic the Hedgehog" and "Ecco the Dolphin."

- Nintendo device allows users to play its Game Boy software on GameCube console to boost flagging sales. Nintendo will sell the GameCube device, called "Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Player," in March in Japan, and in May in the U.S., at a recommended price of $41.

A week in Korea tech

Telecommunications

- Broadband subscribers passes the 10 million threshold, just four years after introduction of the services in June 1998. The Korean IT industry accounted for 12.9% of the national GDP and 30% of total exports. Several government policies directed at establishing an "e-Korea" led initiatives to build an e-government and carry out nationwide digitalization programs.

Mobile / Wireless

- Hyundai Motor and IBM are teaming up in a venture to provide wireless services to Hyundai vehicles produced for the Korean market. It wasn't immediately known when the vehicles would be available in North America, or how much telematics would add to the cost of a vehicle. Telematics refers to wireless communications products designed into vehicles.

Semiconductors

- Hynix to sell its flat-panel unit to China's BOE Technology Group for $380 million, as creditors of the world's third-largest memory- chip maker sell off assets to help recoup loans. BOE will complete the purchase by the beginning of next month and has offered job guarantees to Hynix workers. Selling the display unit would help bolster the finances of Hynix.

Hardware

- Exports of digital televisions so far this year have more than tripled by price volume, according to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said. Among these, the PDP-TV was particularly successful, with its shipments jumping by more than 400%, the ministry said in its report on the export trend for digital televisions through the first three quarters of this year.

Information Technology

- Toshiba Information Systems, Cisco Systems and Mitsui join to offer a network security service that operates continuously to monitor, track and minimize damage from illegal network penetrations. Toshiba Information Systems will produce the software for the service, and Cisco will construct the security systems. The actual monitoring will be carried out by a Mitsui unit.

A week in China tech

Telecommunications

- China Netcom secures deal to acquire assets from Asia Global Crossing, in the first such acquisition by a mainland carrier. The fixed-line operator plans to partner with Newbridge Capital and Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund to create a new firm with $270 million in equity and bank loans to take over the network's business operations, AGC said in a US filing for bankruptcy.

Mobile / Wireless

- Handspring taking a crack at the mainland hand-held market under a new manufacturing and branding deal with CEC Telecom in China. The United States company will sell its GPRS-enabled mobile-phone PDA combination, the Treo 270, in China with CEC Telecom at a price many would consider prohibitive in the mainland.

- China Unicom to buy nine mobile networks from its parent for $2.72 billion, in a long-awaited move by the mainland Chinese mobile phone operator. The company will pay HK$4.52 billion and assume HK$16.7 billion in debt for the purchase. The nine provinces in which it has acquired networks are Jilin, Heilongjiang, Jiangxi, Henan, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Chongqing, Guangxi and Xinjiang.

Hardware

- Legend Group launches its new generation of "dual mode" systems, which combines the functions of a regular audio-visual appliance and a personal computer. The new 6010P and 9010P Supremia-series PCs ran on Legend's operating platform Leos. The new PCs come with a keyboard plus a remote control that users can click on to play music or video files on the hard-disk drive.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- CCTV reports a 26 percent increase in revenue for prime-time advertising next year from this year. An auction of next year's spots between the end of the main evening news at 7.30pm and 8pm raised Y3.31 billion. The Company said the main bidders were manufacturers of drinks, pharmaceuticals, mobile telephones, food, household appliances and health products.

A week in Singapore / Malaysia tech

Telecommunications

- Malaysia's Time dotCom will begin price negotiations with Maxis Communications over the sale of its mobile unit once due diligence is completed. In September, Time dotCom signed a conditional agreement to sell its unlisted mobile arm TIMECel to leading operator Maxis for between M$1.3 billion and M$1.6 billion.

- Demand for internet data management services rising in Southeast Asia, according to the local units of Japanese giants NTT and Fujitsu said. Malaysia's lower costs and high-quality internet infrastructure would draw investments away from Singapore, the region's number one data site. Government support was another factor encouraging multinational firms to set up shop in Malaysia.

Mobile / Wireless

- MobileOne Asia announces it can pay as much as 80% of profit as dividends by 2004, as Singapore's number two cellular company tries to lure wary investors to its share sale. The company said its remaining investment in the 3G mobile technology would be S$200 million and it had no plans to cut debt. It has already pledged to set aside 52% of profit as dividends this year and next.

Semiconductors

- Start-up Infiniti Solutions secures $36 million to invest in the chip-testing and assembly. The year-old company is led by Inderjit Singh, a Singapore member of parliament and Infiniti's chief executive officer. Most of the $36 million came from 3i and EDB Investments, with the rest from Infiniti's management team. Part of Infiniti's strategy is to grow through acquisitions.

Information Technology

- DMX Technologies Group files prospectus with the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The company provides comprehensive network solutions spanning the whole IT spectrum. It has operations in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. The CEO, non-executive chairman and CFO at DMX were formerly employees of Datacraft, until last year a high-flying technology company.

A week in Hong Kong tech

Telecommunications

- Three thousand workers at PCCW face an uncertain future after the telecoms giant announced the formation of a new 100% owned subsidiary to employ them. In September PCCW unveiled a voluntary program under which 17 independent companies were formed by about 1,600 staff. Cascade Ltd will take over the services currently undertaken by the Network and Services Business division.

Internet

- HSBC's online foreign-exchange transactions through Hong Kong nears $10 billion a week. Officials said they expected Internet-based revenues to increase following the worldwide launch next week of the [email protected] electronic trading platform. The online trading platform has generated over $240 billion worth of forex transactions through 100,000 trades from August 2000 to October this year.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

- Tom.com has not yet reached agreement to buy Sing Pao current affairs magazine. The announcement came after Chinese-language newspapers reported this week that Tom.com would buy the Cup magazine for a token HK$1. Sing Pao has been trying to sell its poorly performing assets, but has not made any agreement to dispose of stareastnet.com or its other Internet-related businesses.

- Tom.com is expanding its operations on the mainland by setting up two joint ventures with advertising firms involving a total investment of 21 million yuan. The company will invest Rmb20 million in a joint venture with Charm Art & Advertising, a major advertising agent for CCTV and Rmb1.02 million for a 51% stake in a joint venture with Henan Ming Sheng Advertising.

Information Technology

- Digital China posts higher profits for the six months to September but said its net margins came under pressure. Digital China earned HK$89.5 million, against HK$80.7 million in the same period last year, and promised to distribute a dividend at the end of the year. First-half turnover rose to HK$5.8 billion from HK$4.9 billion, a jump of 18.3 percent.

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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