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Japan

Hardware

Sony Corp. (SNE) has pulled the plug in Japan on sales of a next-generation flat TV due to sluggish demand, a setback for a product the company had trumpeted as a sign of its revival as an innovator. Sony had stopped production of ultra-thin TVs using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology for Japan, just a little over 2 years since it launched its first set. It will keep selling the TVs in overseas markets. OLED displays use organic, or carbon-containing compounds that emit light when electricity is applied. They produce crisp images and do not need backlighting, making them slimmer and more energy-efficient than LCDs.

Semiconductor

Mitsubishi Electric Corp. (OTCPK:MIELY) named Mr. Kenichiro Yamanishi as the company's new president & CEO, and is scheduled to assume his new position on April 1, 2010. Mr. Yamanishi will replace Mr. Setsuhiro Shimomura, who will then be appointed to the new position of Chairman. Semiconductor & Device.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

Ken Kutaragi, honorary chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., will become an outside board member of Rakuten Inc. Kutaragi is known as the father of the PlayStation game console series. He will take up the post on March for a one-year term. Kutaragi also serves as an outside board member of Kadokawa Group Holdings Inc.

Capcom Co. will stick with development of titles for Nintendo Co.’s (OTCPK:NTDOY) Wii consoles even as sales fall and rival software makers shift emphasis. Sales of the Wii in the U.S. declined for 10 out of the past 12 months, from a year earlier. Nintendo sold 31 percent fewer consoles last month in the country, after holiday sales spiked 77 percent to a record 3.81 million players in December. Declining demand for the console led Ubisoft Entertainment SA, to reverse its outlook for full-year profit and refocus efforts toward Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT) Xbox 360 and the Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3. Nintendo’s own titles continued to dominate software sales, crowding out third-party contributors.

Telecommunications

Willcom Inc. will file for bankruptcy protection with the Tokyo District Court. Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp. will likely decide whether to provide financial support for Willcom after the phone company applies for court protection. PHS services have lost customers to NTT DoCoMo Inc. (DCM), KDDI Corp. (OTC:KDDIF) and Softbank Corp. (OTCPK:SFTBF), who offer faster services. Willcom may seek investment from Softbank, Japan’s third-largest mobile-phone company, and a Japanese investment fund, to revive its businesses. Willcom had total liabilities of 173.3 billion yen (US$1.9 billion), or six times its shareholders’ equity.

Korea

Software

Samsung’s (OTC:SSNLF) Bada application store will be able to offer a minimum of 1,000 apps by the end of 2010. Samsung has already made its Bada software developer kit (SDK) available to its partners, and will publicly release it in March. The firm is bidding to acquire software vendors. Samsung unveiled its first Bada device, Wave. The handset will be available in 50 countries by May. Software developers will be able to use the SDK to manually select the range of handsets they want their apps to support. Samsung's investment in mobile software this year will exceed the 130 billion won (US$113 million) spent last year. Choi was appointed as Samsung's new CEO in December. Samsung will place equal emphasis on mobile software, as the rapid spread of the smartphone segment brings handset device makers' attention to the growing sector. Samsung unveiled the Wave, its first smartphone based on Samsung's own Bada operating system at the mobile show.

Media, Gaming and Entertainment

Two major gaming companies are focusing on two opposite strategies. Com2us added online game as new business area, doing expansion, but Gamevil chose concentration strategy by presenting mobile game in line with diverse OS. Although there is risk on investment, scale of online game is far larger than mobile game, so the possibility of growth in the future is wide open. Com2Us began open service of Golf Star, its first online game, in December of last year and in last month, it proceed closed test of Come on Baby All Starts to push forward online game business in earnest. Com2Us will unveil one more online game of casual genre within this year. With addition of new business area, the number of staff increased from 150 in the end of 2007 to 250. It will enhance mobile game area and will unveil games that to be released in domestic market and presented in Appstore. It will present 10 games in Android market as well as Appstore.

Alternative Energy

SKC Solmics Co. will invest 32.7 billion won (US$28.60 million) to produce silicon wafers for use in solar cells. The company, a ceramic maker for components of semiconductor and LCD equipment, will complete a 50 megawatt production line of silicon wafers, a thin slice of silicon used to fabricate semiconductors, at a plant in the city of Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, by the end of this year. The new business is expected to generate more than 60 billion won in sales next year. With its subsidiary tapped into the silicon wafer market, SKC will be able to produce a range of key materials for solar cell production, including ethylene vinyl acetate, fluorinated films, polyester films and back-sheet.

Hardware

LG Electronics Inc. (OTC:LGERF) aims to raise its sales of computer and television monitors in Japan to US$100 million by 2012, boosted some 67 percent from last year. LG Electronics has released seven new models, mostly high-end products and three-dimensional screens, on the Japanese market, as it aims to claim the No. 1 spot in sales for the next two years. LG became the fifth-largest supplier of computer and television monitors in 2009 with over US$60 million in sales, it added.

China

Telecommunications

China Unicom (CHU) chairman Lu Yimin will rollout HSPA services in some Chinese cities during 2010. The operator is also testing HSPA+ technology, and researching IMS, with a view to eventually rolling out LTE services. Mobile penetration in China increased to 56.7 percent in 2009 to reach 747 million users. China Unicom currently has around 150 million mobile customers, including 3.5 million 3G subscribers. China's 3G users reached 13.25 million at the end of 2009, with market leader China Mobile (CHL) reporting 5.51 million users of the locally-developed TD-SCDMA 3G standard. Lu is aiming to make China Unicom the country's largest 3G provider by subscribers, by tapping the demand for low-cost smartphones.

Media, Entertainment and Gaming

· The9 will launch a promotion for its in-house developed 2D Three Kingdoms-themed side-scrolling fighting casual game World of Fight. Gamers can apply for resurrection tickets to invite their friends to the game. The inviter will be rewarded by: 5 Q coins when the invited gamer reaches level 19; or 20 percent of the total sum when the invited gamer recharges resurrection tickets.

· Shenzhen ZQ Game Technology has eight games, ranging from 2D to 3D, under development at present, and will release several new webgames this year. The company will enter social networking service (SNS) and mobile games in future. The company employs more than 400 research and development staff.

Alternative Energy

JA Solar Holdings (JASO) made a full year net loss of 128.66 million yuan (US$18.85 million) in 2009. Net loss per diluted American depository share over the year came to 0.8 yuan (US$0.12). The company generated revenues over the reporting period of 3.78 billion yuan (US$553.65 million). Fiscal year 2009, though 2009 shipments increased 83.8 percent year-on-year. JA Solar booked shipments of 231MW, generating revenue of 1.63 billion yuan (US$238.43 million) and net income of 152.53 million yuan (US$22.35 million) at a gross margin of 20.5 percent. The company raised its outlook for the full year of 2010 to shipments of more than 900MW, including first quarter shipments of 215-225MW. By the end of 2010, JA Solar expects to achieve solar cell capacity of 1.1GW, module capacity of 300MW and wafer capacity of 120MW.

Disclosure: Director

Source: Asian Tech Stock Weekly Review (February 15 - 21, 2010)