A week in tech

A round up of all the latest tech news.
ò The five major online brokerages û E*Trade Securities Co; Rakuten Securities Inc.; Matsui Securities Co; Monex Beans Inc.; and kabu.com Securities û of the country posted a record average trading value of Ñ1.3 trillion ($11 billion) in January. The firms cite as the major factor behind the performance the individual investorsÆ buying spree. The figure represents more than a threefold increase from Ñ420 billion ($3.5 billion) in January 2005. The average daily trading value among the five major online brokers went beyond the Ñ1 trillion ($8.4 billion) mark for the first time in December 2005 when it then hit Ñ1.2 trillion yen ($10.1 billion).

ò NEC announced that it has secured a series of orders from European mobile phone companies for communications equipment for mobile internet services. Earlier, the company announced the shipment to Bouygues Telecom SA of France a system that allows the distribution of video to mobile phones. In addition to distributing live programming in a streaming format, the system can be used for video-on-demand services. Bouygues is introducing NTT DoCoMo's i-mode and aims to bolster its competitiveness by adding video distribution services. NEC said it has also delivered to Wind Telecom SpA of Italy equipment that can provide more precise position information services using mobile phone base stations and Global Positioning System receivers. Wind is already conducting tests with NEC and aims to commercialize the service in the near future. NEC disclosed that its sales of mobile phone systems for value-added services reach a total of around Ñ50 billion ($424.2 million) annually, which the company said it expects to raise to some Ñ75 billion ($636.3 million) in the next two or three years.

ò Cellular phone service providers in the country revealed their plans to increase capital investment by almost 20%, bringing the figure to more than Ñ1.6 trillion ($13.5 billion) in fiscal 2006. The increase is estimated at about Ñ200 billion ($1.6 billion) and is forecast to come from two factors: the newcomers readying their entry into the market and the introduction of a number portability system. Three firms û Softbank Corp., eAccess, and IPMobile are reportedly preparing to launch cell phone service in the autumn or, in a much later date, set up base stations and computer systems for customer management. eAccess said it plans to lay down roughly Ñ100 billion ($848.4 million) next fiscal year. Capital investment by the three firms is estimated to reach a total Y150-200 billion ($1.2 billion-1.6 billion). The three existing cellular service firms û NTT DoCoMo, KDDI Corp. and Vodafone KK û have started system development for the November start of the number portability program. Total development expenses by these other three companies are estimated to hit Ñ30 billion ($254.5 million). The three existing firms expect to spend a total of roughly Ñ1.4 trillion ($11.8 billion) on facilities for cell phone service this fiscal year. NEC said it has received orders to configure a portion of the number portability system.

ò NTT DoCoMo and Nippon Television Network announced their setting up of a partnership in a bid to offer new services related to digital broadcasting for cell phone users in Japan. The two companies are expecting the alliance to bring about the development of new services for "one-segment" terrestrial digital broadcasting. The new broadcasting, which is aimed at mobile handset users, is slated to begin in April. Under the deal, the two are forming a limited liability partnership (LLP) to create TV programmes for phone users and invest in the production of such content. Within the LLP, DoCoMo and Nippon TV will be putting each an investment of Ñ5 billion ($42.4 million). To prepare for the new digital broadcasting, DoCoMo earlier disclosed that it would acquire a 2.6 percent stake in Fuji Television Network Inc.

ò Softbank announced that it is in talks with Vodafone to lease telecom networks for mobile phone services, a deal observers said would threaten industry leaders NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. Softbank earlier disclosed that its plans were to expand its services gradually from urban areas, explaining that decision to the limited number of base stations it can build. In the tie-up, Softbank would be tapping the Vodafone networks in areas where it would have no bases of its own. Vodafone is the world's biggest mobile telephone operator in terms of revenue but lags behind NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in Japan. Softbank is one of the three carriers that are to enter the market this year or next year.

ò Sharp of Japan and Chi Mei Optoelectronics of Taiwan announced their coming to a cross-licensing agreement that will allow them to share patents on LCD panels. Sharp said it is looking to signing the agreement with Taiwan's second-largest LCD panel maker around March. The agreement covers several thousand LCD-related patents of both firms with certain proprietary patents excluded. The deal, which is good for five years, includes patents related to such products as LCD TVs, LCD monitors, notebook personal computers, and small and medium LCD panels. The term of the cross license pact will be five years, the companies said. Financial details of the deal of the cross-licensing deal were not revealed.

ò Genesis Technology Inc., a Japanese semiconductor testing company, said it has received approval to list on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Second Section. The company said it will offer all the shares through the book-building method. The company expects to net Ñ1.6 billion ($13.5 million) from the IPO. For the current fiscal year through March 31, the company forecasts a parent pretax profit of Ñ1 billion ($8.4 million), net profit of Ñ573 million ($4.8 million), and revenue of Ñ\13.3 billion yen ($112.8 million). Nikko Citigroup is the lead underwriter of the offer.

ò Daum Communication Corp., the countryÆs second-largest portal site operator, announced the signing of an exclusive contract with the official agent for Infront Sports & Media AG, the broadcaster of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The contract allows Daum to air the World Cup games on its web site and over mobile phones. The service will only be available to members who sign up with the portal site. The portal operator said the offering will also offer highlights from each game. The agreement gives it an exclusive right among local web portals to take advantage of emblems and logos of the World Cup games in its marketing activities.

ò NHN Corp, the countryÆs internet portal giant, disclosed its loss in the fourth quarter of 2005. The firm attributed the loss to a one-off charge related to its business in China. In its regulatory filing, NHN posted a net loss of W50.7 billion ($52.6 million) in the October-December period, compared with a net profit of W14.5 billion ($14.8 million) in 2004. In a separate report, NHN announced that its online fighting game, Kwonho, hit 1 million registered users in just two weeks since its launch.

ò Hanaro Telecom, the nation's second-largest internet service provider, announced the acquisition of a 65 percent stake in video-on-demand service provider Celrun TV for W5.5 billion ($5.6 million), a move said to be part of its aim to reinvent itself as a media company. With the deal, Hanaro said it plans to start its internet-content-on-demand services. Hanaro said it will increase the capital of Celrun TV from W6 billion ($6.1 million) to W26 billion ($26.7 million) within the year by issuing W20 billion ($20.5 million) worth of Celrun TV shares.
ò The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) revealed its grand plan to construct a "mobile paradise,'' a special district, where people will be able to enjoy a seamless service from the world's latest wireless technologies next year. Dubbed the M1 (Mobile No. 1) project, the special district is kind of a free technology zone that will create a new mobile environment and be the testing area for up-and-coming wireless platforms. Included in the available techniques will be all mobile broadcasting systems like DVB-H developed by Nokia, Qualcomm's MediaFlo and the home-grown digital multimedia broadcasting. The place will allow individuals to use for free every next-generation telecom platform such as time division-synchronous code division multiple access (TD-SCDMA), WiBro and a global system for mobile communications (GSM). Under the programme, MIC said it aims a 100-percent mobile literacy here as well as substantially expanding the country's presence in the global market. . An MIC official said the new project is looking to come up with products worth W576 trillion ($591.6 billion) by 2010 and create additional value of W266 trillion ($273.2 billion) within the same period. The ministry said it is aiming to counter side effects caused by fast-developing high-tech fields. To reach that goal, the ministry is setting aside W43.7 billion ($44.8 million) for this year to bridge the widening gap between those with access to IT and those who do not have.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò The Korea Game Development & Promotion Institute (KGDI) and Sony Computer Entertainment Korea (SCEK) announced their forming of a partnership, with the aim of developing game titles for Sony's portable game console PlayStation Portable. KGDI said that it would co-host the PSP Game Development and Publishing Contest with SCEK in order to promote the industry's interest in portable games and enhance development of game platforms. The two groups said they are aiming to give support for winners who are developing console game titles, and assist in the setting up of game title business and publishing contracts. KGDI and SCEK also disclosed that winners will be provided with a variety of technology data including PSP development tools, libraries and Korean manuals after signing non-disclosure agreements.

ò Emotion announced that it has reached 50 million cumulative users and 400,000 concurrent users for its game, Audition, in China. The game is currently ranked No. 1 in China's leading search portal, Baidu. The company said Audition registered 40 million users and 250,000 concurrent users as of December last year. Emotion said that the company earned W500 million ($513,000) in royalty fees from China in January.

ò KT said it would spend W500 billion ($513.5 million), three times more than the investment of the rival, SK Telecom in the wireless internet this year. SKT revealed that it will inject W170 billion ($174.6 million) in WiBro, while giving primary focus on HSDPA, giving away its plan to invest W570 billion in HSDPA. KT has also decided the charging system for WiBro, which entailed fixed-price up to a certain amount and then usage-based charging. The company announced it would unveil a dual WiBro phone working on both CDMA and WiBro in the latter half of this year. Starting with Seoul and the metropolitan district, KT plans to extend the service area to 38 large cities across the nation.

ò Hanaro Telecom announced 2005 revenue of W1.4 trillion ($1.4 billion) and a net loss of W208.8 billion ($214.4 million). The company said that while its revenue posted a 6 percent growth, year on year, its operating profit registered a 53 percent decline year on year due to increased marketing spending on the back of heated competition in the broadband market. It explains its net loss to one-off expenses from the acquisition of Thrunet and restructuring measures.

Information Technology
ò ETRI, Korea's leading research and development organization for the IT industry, announced that it developed a mobile TV device enabling interactive data broadcast. ETRI said that while the device transmits DMB, it also offers web type information including online news, stock market information, weather and even e-commerce. Should terrestrial DMB expand to WiBro and telematics, services offering VOD, T-Commerce, M-Commerce, traffic information based on DMB will be possible. ETRI is now developing interactive service technologies exploiting such technologies as terrestrial DMB, middleware, voice data service, BWS (Broadcasting Website Service), slideshow and MOT (Managed Object Toolkit).

ò Electronic textbooks will be available at elementary schools as innovative educational tools starting in March. The e-books are referred to as computer-based educational materials. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development has recently developed electronic textbooks in math targeting fifth and sixth graders of elementary schools. The digital math textbooks are the first among regular subjects to be taught for one year. The ministry said that it has spent about W140 million ($144,000) developing the e-books since last May. It will operate the digital textbooks in five elementary schools nationwide on a trial basis from March for one year. The e-books are specially designed to maximize educational effects by offering three dimensional experience programs, highlighter tools and feedback systems unlike simply having content.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming
ò Shanda Interactive Entertainment (Shanda), a leading interactive entertainment media company, announced its signing of an agreement with NHN Games for an exclusive license to operate ArchLord, a 3D MMORPG in mainland China. The game is expected to enter closed beta testing in China during the second quarter of 2006. NHN Games Corp., a leading online game company in South Korea, commercially launched Archlord in South Korea in 2006.

ò Air China, the leading international air carrier in China, and Connexion by Boeing, a business unit of The Boeing Co., announced their coming to a preliminary agreement to provide real-time connectivity to air travellers travelling to and from China. Expected to be set up in October 2006, the Connexion service will allow passengers in-flight access to the internet, real-time email, instant messaging (IM), corporate intranet access, including virtual private network capability. Under the agreement, service availability is expected on major routes between China and North America, Europe, the Middle East and throughout the Asia Pacific region. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ò Six Internet firms in the country are expected to tap overseas markets this year in a bid to generate between $500 million and $1 billion in initial public offerings, according to the Internet Society of China. Alibaba.com, mobile music service provider A8 Limited and online community service provider China Interactive Corp are seen by the group as seeking listings this year. Sources said A8, Shenzhen-based mobile music service provider, expects its shares to be valued at 10 times to 20 times the company's historical profits. A8 obtained $20 million from venture capital firms TDF Capital, Jafco Asia, Intel Capital Corp, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities (HK) Capital and International Data Group in December last year. Despite denials from its officials, Alibaba.com is also rumoured to be another listing candidate. Another possible listing candidate is mainland online community service provider China Interactive Corp. Its main assets include portal Mop.com with more than 18 million registered users. The company aims to boost its revenue to US$50 million this year to meet NASDAQ listing requirements. The report estimated that total revenue from internet users in China would increase 52.5 per cent year on year to Rmb286 billion ($35.5 billion), up from R,mb186 billion ($23.1 billion) last year. The report also predicted that a new generation of internet applications, such as Web 2.0, would focus more on interactive functions and personalized content and that blog and mobile internet service (WAP) would spur the growth of the next industry.

ò CDC Corporation's subsidiary China.com Inc. said its online game, Yulgang, went beyond 260,000 peak concurrent users in the fourth quarter of last year, a figure that stands for a quarter-on-quarter increase of 39 percent. Yulgang is an MMORPG developed by MGame in Korea. In October 2005, China.com formed a wholly-owned subsidiary, CDC Games Limited, to hold all of its assets and strategic alliances related to online games. The company announced average concurrent users per day registered 162,000 in the last quarter, a 34 percent increase from 121,000 in the third quarter of 2005. Registered users totaled almost 15 million in the fourth quarter, a 63 percent growth rate from 9.1 million in the third quarter of 2005.

ò Sohu.com announced a 27 percent year-on-year increase in its unaudited financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended December 31, 2005. Sohu said its net profit, following the US GAAP, hit US$8.9 million, a figure that goes beyond company guidance. The company said its total quarterly revenue was $30.5 million, a figure representing a 27 percent year-on-year and 8 percent quarter-on-quarter increase. Its advertising revenues went up by 28 percent year on year to $20.3 million.

ò Nokia cited its robust growth in sales in the Chinese market. The company said the companyÆs net sales in Chinese markets posted $4 billion, a result that makes China its largest single market around the world. Nokia said the number of mobile handsets sold in Chinese markets this year hit 32.5 million, a figure that represents a 72 percent growth over the previous year.

ò With software companies in ChinaÆs Henan province accumulating nearly Rmb5 billion ($621.1 million) in sales revenues during the past five years, observers are saying the software industry in the area has become one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. Observers also say the industry exhibits the most potential. From 2000 to 2005, the software industry in the province posted an average of 50 percent growth in sales revenue every year. The province has four software parks, and serves as host to more than 400 software developers. Henan province said it aims for targeted sales revenue of Rmb20 billion for its software industry in 2010.

ò Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) announced the consolidated results of its operations for the three months ended December 31, 2005 show, with its sales going up to $333.1 million, a 7.5 percent increase from $310.0 million in the third quarter of 2005. The company also reported an increase in capacity to 152,219 8-inch equivalent wafers per month. The company said its net loss declined to $15.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2005 compared to a net loss of $26.1 million in the third quarter of 2005. SMICÆs wafer shipments increased 5.8 percent to 376,227 8-inch wafers in the fourth quarter of 2005 compared to the third quarter of 2005. SMIC said its capital expenditure budget will be approximatelyUS$1.1 billion, which will be scalable depending on market conditions.

ò Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp, a leading flat panel maker, reported a 53.2 percent drop in its net profit for last year to NT$8 billion dollars ($248.2 million) even as its sales posted a rise to NT$152.8 billion ($4.7 billion) from NT$102.5 billion ($3.1 billion). The company revealed that it sees its shipments of its thin-film-transistor LCD panels in the current quarter to March to remain flat against the preceding quarter, with average selling prices steady to slightly lower. Chi Mei disclosed its planned capital expenditure for this year of about NT$100 billion ($3.1 billion). In a separate report, Chi Mei said it has entered a cross-licensing agreement covering LCD patents with Sharp of Japan.

ò AU Optronics Corp announced a 44.1 percent drop in its net profit last year to NT$15.6 billion ($484 million) compared with NT$27.9 billion ($865.7 million) in 2004. The world's third-biggest flat-panel maker said its sales went up from NT$168.1 billion ($5.2 billion) to NT$217.3 billion ($6.7 billion). In the fourth quarter, the companyÆs net profit climbed to NT$11.4 billion ($353.7 million), up from NT$5.8 billion ($180 million) year-on-year, as sales went up from NT$59.5 billion ($1.8 billion) to NT$72.8 billion ($2.2 billion). AU Optronics had a net loss of NT$1.6 billion ($49.6 million) in the first half of last year, and returned back to profit in the third quarter. The company is No. 3 after Samsung and LG Philips of South Korea.

Hong Kong
ò Telstra Corp of Australia said it had no plan to divest CSL in the near term, explaining that the unit would continue to work on its 3G mobile business. The companyÆs merger proposal with New World Mobile (NWM) waits for the approval by the latterÆs shareholders. New World Mobile will have until the end of this month to send its shareholders a circular on the proposed merger. When approved, the merged entity is expected to become the city's largest mobile operator with 34 percent share of a market that has over eight million users.

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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