The following is excerpted from IRG's weekly stock report:
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
• Media sources said that Rakuten’s aim to raise its stake in Tokyo Broadcasting System [TBS] to above 20 percent has gone down to a move to make TBS an equity-method affiliate. TBS implied that to become an affiliate, there must be friendly relations. Rakuten’s first attempt in 2005was to acquire TBS. Rakuten said it is also seeking a tie-up that would enable it to add TV to its Internet services. TBS did not issue any comment on this move.
• Enix Co. Ltd. announced its decision to release a game called Infinite Undiscovery on the platform of Microsoft Corp.'s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360 games console. Industry observers see the move as a big boost for Xbox as Enix is the last major Japanese games developer not to have embraced the console yet. Analysts said that the debut of role-playing games like Infinite Undiscovery is a crucial factor to Microsoft's success in Japan, with gamers in Japan preferring RPG titles over the first-person shooter games that are popular in North America and Europe. Microsoft disclosed that the combined currently available titles and new software will bring a total of about 250 games available for the Xbox 360 by December.
• Market sources indicated that Sanyo Electric Co. (OTC:SANYY) is in final talks to sell its cellular phone production business to Kyocera Corp. (NYSE:KYO). The deal is seen as marking the first sale of a cell phone production between Japanese companies. No comment regarding the deal could be secured from the two companies. A spokesperson from Sanyo said that the company has not decided yet whether it will sell the handset division. From Kyocera, the spokesperson did not deny nor confirm the deal. In a separate development, Sanyo announced that it will offload its entire equity stake in its handset sales subsidiary Telecom Sanyo Co. to Telepark Corp. in a deal valued at 4.8 billion yen (US$41.6 million). Telecom Sanyo sells mobile phones nationwide except in Hokkaido and Okinawa prefectures. The company reported sales of 38.4 billion yen (US$332.8 million) in the business year to March 31, 2007. Telepark is a subsidiary of trading house Mitsui & Co. Following the sale in October, Telecom Sanyo will carry the name of Telecom Park. Sanyo said it looks to a profit of 4 billion yen (US$34.6 million) on the sale for the current business year ending March 2008.
• NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE:DCM), announced that it would introduce a flat-rate pricing scheme for its wireless data services. The move is seen as the company effort to attract new mobile internet subscribers in the face of strong competition from rival carriers. Scheduled to take effect in mid October, the new flat-rate plan is expected to enable users to surf the web at speeds of up to 3.6-Mbps, at a maximum cost of 11,340 yen (US$98) per month, including tax. NTT DoCoMo also said that it will offer maximum pricing of 4,725 yen (US$41) including tax, on its lower-bandwidth 64-Kbps mobile data network. The company did not explain what would be the impact of the flat-rate pricing scheme on its future revenues.
• VASCO Data Security International, Inc., a software security company specializing in authentication products, announced that it has widened its worldwide reach by opening a sales and support office in Tokyo, Japan. The company said its Tokyo office will be responsible for all sales and support in Japan. VASCO said the Japanese market is of “strategic importance” to them. VASCO is the number one supplier of strong authentication and e-signature solutions and services.
• GemStone Systems, a provider of distributed data management and virtualization solutions, announced the establishment of new offices in Japan and the formation of GemStone Systems KK, a wholly-owned subsidiary of GemStone Systems, Inc. GemStone’s flagship product, GemFire Enterprise, is a high-performance, distributed data caching platform that serves as the core component of the GemFire Enterprise Data Fabric [EDF]. GemStone Systems is a privately held infrastructure software company that provides data services solutions for enterprise business architectsand data infrastructure managers that are building, enhancing or simplifying access, distribution, integration and management of information within and across the enterprise.
• According to industry sources, Asahi Glass Co., Japan's No. 1 glass maker, is looking to exit the liquid crystal panel market by disposing Optrex Corp, its subsidiary in the business. The company said it has already initiated the bidding process for Optrex Corp. following the decline in prices of liquid crystal panels that have made it difficult for the subsidiary to secure profits. Optrex, which was established as a joint venture between Asahi Glass and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.(NYSE:MTU), produces small and medium-size liquid crystal panels for use in mobile phones, automobile speedometers and other products. Asahi Glass is currently promoting consolidation of its businesses, with the company indicating that it plans to sell its entire stake in wholly owned subsidiary Asahi Glass Fiber Co. to a company co-funded by the Development Bank of Japan and an investment fund. Asahi Glass said it will focus on its core businesses such as sheet glass and glass substrates for LCD televisions. Mitsubishi Electric is reportedly selling also its stake in Optrex. No date for the sale has been decided yet.
• Canon Inc (NYSE:CAJ) announced its decision to buy back up to 10 million shares estimated to be worth approximately 50 billion yen (US$433.4 million). The ten million shares would be equivalent to 0.7 percent of the total outstanding and is expected to bring the company’s total of repurchased stock this year to about US$3.9 billion. Following its share repurchase in February, Canon has already bought back 400 billion yen (US$3.4 billion) worth of stock. The company said the repurchase would strengthen its return on equity and provide it with a reserve of shares the company said it would utilize for future acquisition plans.
• According to market research firm Media Create, figures for the weekly hardware sales in Japan for the week ending September 9 indicate that sales have declined further. The report said that the extremely low software sales have had a predictable effect on hardware. Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) DS sales posted a decline by almost 17,000 units to just 77,488 for the week. The Wii remained as the second best selling console even as its sales went down by over 10,000 units to 29,088. Media Create noted that the drop in hardware sales has affected practically everyone, with the PSP dropping by over 6,500 units to just 15,564. Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 2 sales dropped by less than 1,000 units to 13,360, with the research firm stating that the performance of the firm must have benefited from the success of Banpresto’s Another Century’s Episode 3. The Xbox 360 saw sales went down by over 300 units to 1,286. Identified as the only gains of the week were those made by the Game Boy Advance family of consoles and the GameCube. Both went up fractionally to 550 and 82 units, respectively.
• Industry sources said Sony Corp is at negotiating table to sell its production facilities for advanced microchips used in its PlayStation 3 game console to Toshiba Corp. (OTCPK:TOSBF). Details of the deal indicate that Sony is planning to sell production facilities for cutting-edge microprocessors and graphic chips to Toshiba for 100 billion yen (US$869.7 million) The sale would include production lines for the Cell microchips, known as supercomputer on a chip. No comments could be secured from Sony and Toshiba about the deal.
• The Japan government through the Internal Affairs and Communications Industry announced that it has started to accept applications for licenses to use the 2.5-gigahertz bandwidth for next-generation, high-speed data communications services. Industry observers said that the competition for the new licenses is expected to be intense among Willcom Inc. and existing cellular carriers NTT DoCoMo Inc., KDDI Corp. and Softbank Mobile Corp. (OTCPK:SFTBF). The Japanese government said up to two firms can secure licenses from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. Industry sources note that Willcom has already expressed its intention to bid for a license without mentioning any alliance with other firms to launch next-generation PHS services. The top industry leaders, however, have indicated working with other partners in applying for the license. NTT DoCoMo has formed an alliance with Acca Networks Co., a broadband Internet service provider and has invited Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc., Mitsui & Co. and East Japan Railway Co. to join. KDDI is seen as entering into a partnership with top shareholder Kyocera Corp. Softbank Mobile Corp. aims to obtain a license by allying with Emobile Ltd.
Disclaimer: IRG is not responsible for the accuracy of the news compiled within this article, which is based on publicly available information.