- Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 outsold Nintendo’s (NTDOY.PK) DS and Wii machines in Japan in November, helped by releases of exclusive game titles. The PlayStation Portable sold 236,775 units, compared with 147,016 for Nintendo’s handheld DS, Enterbrain. The release of Capcom’s “Monster Hunter Portable 3rd” title for the PSP on Dec. 1 helped the handheld top hardware sales in the country for the first time in six months. Sony sold 123,748 PlayStation 3 game consoles in Japan last month, beating the 109,660 units for Nintendo’s Wii, Enterbrain said. “Gran Turismo 5,” a PS3 exclusive, was the best-selling software title in Japan last month with 410,486 copies.
- Toshiba Corp. (TOSBF.PK) will offer new TVs tailored specifically for emerging markets with the goal to at least double its sales in the region. Toshiba will roll out in Indonesia, Vietnam and other nations new TVs that can address such chronic problems as poor reception and blackouts. Fast-growing markets in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America account for most of the rise in the global demand for liquid crystal display TVs, because of the ongoing shift to flat-panel TVs from traditional cathode ray tube models. Toshiba sees the overall LCD TV demand in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region to jump 32 percent next fiscal year. Toshiba's new Power TVs are designed to hold up in challenging infrastructure environments and will help it compete in Asia and other emerging markets with the world's two largest TV makers like Samsung Electronics (SSNLF.PK) and LG Electronics (LGERF.PK) .
- KDDI Corp. (KDDIF.PK) is seeking mergers and acquisitions mainly in Asia to offer more consumer services in overseas markets, its new president Tanaka said, as the Japanese telecommunications operator looks outside of its saturated home market for further growth. KDDI is said to be under negotiations with potential overseas partners. KDDI's current overseas business accounts for a very small part of its total revenue. But given uncertain prospects in the mature, competitive domestic market, global expansion through consumer services is one of Tanaka's priorities. The company had previously set an overseas revenue target of 200 billion yen (US$2.4 billion) by the fiscal year ending March 2013. KDDI sees group revenue at 3.4 trillion yen (US$41 billion) for the current fiscal year. KDDI struggles to hold onto its domestic market share after lagging rival carriers in the fast-growing smartphone market. The largest carrier, NTT DoCoMo (DCM), maintains a solid subscriber base, while No. 3 player Softbank (SFTBF.PK), Japan's only carrier of Apple's iPhone, has been stealing customers away from KDDI. With data traffic rapidly expanding, KDDI aims to differentiate itself from rivals by utilizing all the network platforms and seamlessly interconnecting the services.
- Japan's Communications Ministry will allocate mobile bandwidth through competitive bidding beginning next year, opening up prime spectrum to accommodate the demand of smartphones. The auctions will cover spectrum in 700MHz and 900MHz bands, with allocations reaching the equivalent of 100MHz in bandwidth by 2015. The two bands are now set aside for such uses as television broadcasts and taxi radios, but they remain underutilized due to inefficient allocations. Existing allocations would be realigned as part of the process, clearing bandwidth for mobile service providers. NTT Docomo and KDDI already have access to the 800MHz band, leaving Softbank and Emobile as the likely bidders on the new allocations.
- NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank, as well as three other companies, are vying to become mobile TV providers. The Nikkei reports that the six companies have expressed their interest to the communications ministry, which will select providers in 2011. The service is expected to begin in April 2012 and will use frequencies that will become available once analogue broadcasts end in July. The other applicants are Nagase Brothers, Gourmet Navigator, and an anonymous company.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
- Multimedia Broadcasting, Inc. has been commissioned as the sole carriage operator providing nationwide multimedia broadcasting services for mobile devices scheduled to start following the termination of the analog broadcasting service in Japan. It is the direct result of active efforts by the ISDB-T Multimedia Forum, a group of about 80 companies organized to promote the ISDB-Tmm standard. The ISDB-Tmm standard is a member of the ISDB-T family of digital terrestrial broadcasting technologies. As it is going to be put into commercial use in Japan, there is a growing hope for the adoption of the ISDB-Tmm standard in Latin America, where the ISDB-T format has been adopted, as well as in other parts of the world. In Japan, Multimedia Broadcasting, the newly commissioned carriage operator, and other members of the ISDB-T Multimedia Forum have been engaged in a wide range of activities targeted at commercial broadcasting services starting in the spring of 2012.
- Japan's anti-monopoly watchdog gave the official green light to a search-engine alliance between Yahoo Japan (YAHOF.PK) and Google (GOOG). Yahoo Japan would adopt Google's search engine, giving the two companies control of almost all of the domestic search market. The move triggered criticism from competitors Microsoft (MSFT) and domestic online retailer Rakuten (RKUNF.PK). The Fair Trade Commission would continue to monitor the progress of the deal for any possible breaches of anti-monopoly laws. Yahoo Japan's move came as a surprise as it had been expected to follow Yahoo (YHOO) in choosing Microsoft as a partner. Microsoft's search technology was not strong enough for its needs, citing Japanese language search capabilities as one example.
- As part of a management reshuffle that is due in 2011, LG Electronics Inc. will dismantle its business solutions unit and slim down its business to four divisions next year. The latest restructuring will mainly focus on fast and accurate decision-making, boosting the development of advanced technology and strengthening new businesses. The four remaining divisions will be home appliance, air-conditioning & energy solution, home entertainment and mobile communications. The company has been under pressure to improve its operations after it had a whopping 99.2 percent decline in its third-quarter net profit.
- Samsung Electronics Co. will make inroads into a new semiconductor sector in a bid to enhance its competitiveness in the mobile communications industry. Samsung Electronics will tap into the near field communication (NFC) semiconductor market and start mass-production of the NFC chips early next year. NFC technology enables the wireless exchange of data between devices over a very short distance. Samsung's new NFC chips can facilitate short-range credit card payments and ticket reservations as well as data exchanges via mobile phones, the company said. The chip also features flash memory, which supports software upgrades. The tech heavyweight said it will offer various platforms for the use of the NFC chips and develop upgraded versions of the chip with heightened security features. Samsung hopes to expand the use of its new chip to various mobile gadgets, including smartphones, tablet PCs, and smart TVs. NFC chip-loaded mobile phones are forecast to be commercialized next year and are expected to claim 26 per cent of the global mobile phone market in 2015, according to IMS Research.
- Samsung Electronics Co. has promoted the chairman's only son Jay Y. Lee to president from executive vice president, a widely expected move designed to refresh the senior executive line-up of the company. The company's Chief Executive Choi Gee-sung will retain his post but is also elevated to the vice chairman post. The junior Lee, who was educated at Harvard Business School, joined Samsung Electronics in 1991 and was promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer in late 2009, just a few months before Lee Kun-hee returned as the chairman of group's flagship technology unit in March 2010, thanks to a presidential pardon he received after being charged with tax evasion and indicted over financial irregularities at the group in 2008. The latest company-wide management shift comes as the world's top technology powerhouse searches for new growth drivers to help cement its position in the intensifying technology battlefield.
- Baidu Inc. (BIDU) will invest approximately 100 million yuan (US$15 million) in online game developers to support the creation of games for Baidu platforms, Baidu's director of international communications Kaiser Kuo said. Expanding the online games available on Baidu platforms could help the company diversify its revenue streams and encourage users to spend more time on its website. Baidu is China's top Internet search provider but relies mainly on search advertising for its revenue.
- Funtalk China Holdings Ltd.'s second-quarter earnings at least doubled as the Chinese retailer and distributor of mobile phones had improved revenue and sharply higher margins. The company, which has strong earnings growth in recent quarters, has been expanding its retail network, including the acquisition of stakes in other retail chains and the opening of new retail outlets. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, Funtalk had a profit of US$9.8 million, or 18 cents a share, up from US$4.6 million. Revenue surged 25 percent to US$260.4 million, compared with Funtalk's August forecast for US$240 million to US$260 million. Gross margin climbed to 17.3 percent from 13.5 percent.
- Linktone (LTON) saw its revenues rise in the third quarter while profits slipped. Gross revenues were US$19.8 million, up 43 percent from US$13.8 million in the year-ago quarter. Data-related services revenue (SMS, MMS, and Wap) was US$11.4 million, representing 58 percent of gross revenues, and audio-related services (IVR and colour ring-back tones) accounted for 20 percent of gross revenues, or US$3.8 million. Linktone had a net income of US$600,000 compared with US$700,000 a year earlier. For the fourth quarter, Linktone expects revenues to between US$20 to 21 million.
- The number of third generation (3G) mobile telecommunication users in China tripled year-on-year with the figure reaching 38.64 million by the end of October, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT). Approximately 25.38 million users were new subscribers in the past year. The number of 3G users of each of China's top three telecommunication operators, China Telecom (CHA), China Mobile (CHL) and China Unicom (CHU), exceeded 10 million by the end of October, the MIIT data showed. China aimed to have 150 million 3G mobile users by 2011, while investment in 3G development would hit 400 billion yuan (US$60 billion). The number of mobile phone users was up by 94.83 million to reach 842 million during the Jan-Oct period, while fixed-line subscribers decreased by 13.65 million to about 300 million during the same period.
- China Telecom saw a net increase of 2.53 million CDMA subscribers in October, and the operator's total CDMA users hit 85.51 million by the end of the month. The monthly net increase of the operator's CDMA subscribers all surpassed 3 million in the first six months of this year, and the figure went down in July and August to 2.8 million and 2.62 million respectively. In September, the net increase of CDMA users exceeded 3 million again, but the situation failed to continue in October. The aggregate net increase of CDMA users of the operator reached 29.42 million in the first ten months of this year. Meanwhile, the operator lost 850,000 fixed line telephone users in October, reducing the total number to 177 million. The number of the operator's broadband users surged by 840,000 in October, bringing the total of subscribers to 61.91 million.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
- Giant Interactive (GA) has acquired the entire equity interest in Softstar Entertainment, an indirect subsidiary of Beijing Julun Network Information Technology, including rights to Julun Network's 3D MMORPG Sanguo Zhanhun Online, for 15.1 million yuan (US$2.3 million).
- China plans to subsidize the installation of an additional 1GW of photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity per year after 2012, according to the Ministry of Finance. Government support measures include subsidizing half the value of key equipment and contributing a one-time payment of RMB 4-6 per watt for remaining costs in projects approved under the "Golden Sun" program, and promoting use of solar power in development zones and industrial parks. The government will also simplify and speed up connection of new projects to the grid, and establish a mechanism to promote widespread commercialization of new technologies with the aim of lowering costs through economies of scale.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.