The following is excerpted from IRG's weekly stock report:
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• Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod Nano music players caught fire in Japan because of overheating. The two accidents were caused by problems in some battery cells and bring the total number of ``serious product malfunctions'' for the Nano in Japan to three. The ministry, which didn't specify when the latest incidents occurred, advised users to beware of possible overheating when charging the device. The first fire took place March 11.
• Softbank Corp. (OTCPK:SFTBF) will buy handsets from Casio Computer Co. Softbank, based in Tokyo, will start selling the phones by the end of this year. A joint venture between Casio and Hitachi (HIT) will make the handsets. Casio, the maker of mobile phones equipped with Exilim camera technology, already supplies KDDI Corp. (OTC:KDDIF), the second-ranked wireless operator in Japan. Tokyo-based Casio on July 30 reported first-quarter net income rose 86 percent to 3.95 billion yen (US$36 million) because of higher handsets sales.
• Orders for Japanese equipment used to make semiconductors fell 27.8 percent in July from the same month last year as chip makers reined in spending. It was the 17th straight month of year-on-year declines amid a glut of memory chip supply, and the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan said it didn't expect the situation to improve for equipment makers in 2008. Orders in July came to 93.90 billion yen (US$856 million), down 0.2 percent from June, based on monthly order values taken from the industry group's preliminary report.
• Electronic manufacturer Siix Corp increased full-year net profit forecast 0.1 percent after increasing net profit 3.7 percent for the half-year to June 30, 2008. Revenue was down 12.6 percent. Operating profit decreased 14.6 percent and ordinary profit fell 9.2 percent. An interim dividend of 6 yen (US$ .05) was declared and an annual dividend of JPY12 per share is estimated, down from 22 yen (US$.19) last year. Full-year revenue forecast is down 11.6 percent to December 31, 2008.
• The Okaya Electric Industries Co. this month will begin the production of noise suppression capacitors at a Sri Lankan factory it recently acquired from FDK Corp. Okaya will invest about 2 billion yen (US$US18.2 million) over the next three years in the site, positioning it as a production base for supplying power-source equipment makers in India and Singapore. The firm's combined capacity at the new plant and its factory in China's Guangdong Province will be boosted by 66 percent in three years. Okaya bought two factory buildings in Katunayake, in western Sri Lanka, for 2.3 million dollars from FDK.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
• Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 video game console outsold Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s PlayStation 3 in Japan during the week of August 4 - 10. Far more Japanese homes have PS3s than Xbox 360s, but the Xbox 360 ruled for that one week, selling 28,116 units against the PS3's 10,705. Sales of the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) console were fueled by the August 7 release of Namco Bandai Games Inc.'s "Tales of Vesperia," a hit role-playing game that is exclusive to the Xbox 360 and sold 100,000 units in the first week.
• Japan's domestic shipments of cellular phones and PHS (personal handyphone system) handsets fell 9 percent on the year to 12.02 million units for the April-June period, the first year-on-year decline in five quarters. The figure for the first six months was also down 4.2 percent from a year earlier, the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association said.
• Internet Initiative Japan [IIJ] has signed a partnership agreement with global enterprise mobile developer iPass (NASDAQ:IPAS). Under the terms of the agreement, iPass will provide 3G mobile broadband services to its customers in Japan through IIJ's MVNO service, which runs over NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:DCM) and eMobile's 3G/3.5G networks. The partnership with IIJ will help it solidify its mobile broadband presence in the country. Competition across Japan's mobile broadband sector is tough. Figures released by the Telecommunications Carrier Association of Japan [TCA] reveal there were 89.4 million mobile broadband subscribers at the end of July 2008, an increase of 2.5 percent since 2007.