The following is excerpted from IRG's weekly stock report:
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• Dell Japan Inc. plans to increase the number of supermarkets and electronics mass merchandisers offering its personal computers by 20 percent to 600 this year as part of efforts to bolster PC sales to individuals. The company has increased its domestic market share via an online sales model that allows customers to select their own PC specifications, but most sales have been to corporate customers. To increase sales to consumers, the company plans to boost the percentage of sales achieved through retailers from 10 percent at present to 50 percent in fiscal 2009. Dell will create a structure that enables customers who have purchased PCs online to get technical support and repairs via electronics mass merchandisers. It will also use customer data gleaned from online sales to introduce products whose specifications and prices match specific regions and mass merchandisers.
• Toshiba Corporation announced a new line-up of 1.8-inch hard disk drives (HDD) adopting a serial ATA interface, including the industry's first drive of this type with a capacity of 160 gigabytes. The new 160GB drive and an 80GB drive will enter mass production in August. Toshiba’s new 1.8-inch HDDs boost interface speed to 1.5Gbps and offer a rotation speed of 5,400 rpm, faster than the current generation of Toshiba 1.8-inch HDD. By realizing the industry’s first 160GB 1.8-inch drive with a serial ATA interface, Toshiba assures that mobile PCs will be able to meet the most demanding user needs.
Mobile / Wireless
• Japanese mobile phone venture Emobile Ltd. unveiled two new handsets aiming to achieve greater presence in the domestic mobile phone market following its start of wireless voice service in March. The H11HW handset, made by Huawei Technologies Co. of China, is scheduled to go on sale at Emobile outlets and online, and the ''Emonster lite,'' made by High Tech Computer Corp. of Taiwan, is planned to be released in late July. Both models boast high-speed data communication services. Among other features, the Emonster lite has a touch-panel slide screen with a keyboard and is the slimmest model, with a thickness of only 15.8 millimeters, in Japan.
• Shipments of cellular phones and PHS (personal handyphone system) handsets within Japan sank 21.1 percent to 3.29 million units in April. The decline is blamed on flagging subscriber growth and lackluster replacement demand due to the introduction of two-year contracts. New plans introduced by various cell phone providers require customers to use the same handset for two years. Shipments have now fallen three months straight on a year-on-year basis. Total shipments fell 5 percent in the January-April period to 17.21 million units.
• NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:DCM) would cut its monthly fees to match rivals KDDI Corp and Softbank Corp., further intensifying a price war in a mature market. DoCoMo, which holds about half of Japan'smobile phone market, would lower its cheapest price plan by nearly 7 percent to 980 yen (US$9.1) a month from July. Second-ranked KDDI also started offering a 980 yen (US$9.1) -a-month plan from this month to better compete with No. 3 carrier Softbank (SFBTF.PK), which has won more new subscribers than its bigger rivals on a net basis for the past 13 months with its low-price strategy and aggressive marketing.
• Japan's Elpida is open to a share swap or buying a stake in Infineon's Qimonda. The remarks gave new hope to investors that Infineon (IFX) could finally find a buyer for its struggling chips business, sending shares in Infineon up over 5 percent. Earlier this year, Infineon wrote down its stake in memory chipmaker Qimonda (QI) by 1 billion euros in preparation for a sale as Qimonda dipped into the red and prepared to slash jobs. Communications and automotive chipmaker Infineon has failed to find a buyer for the 77 percent of Qimonda it owns after carving out and listing its former memory unit in 2006 in the hope of cutting exposure to the volatile memory chip market.