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IRG Technology, Media and Telecommunications Weekly Market Review (Week of 22 – 28 Nov 2010)

Japan
Hardware
         Sony Corp. will look for a new president who could eventually succeed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer. Stringer would retain his roles of chairman and CEO. Stringer took on the president’s job in April 2009 after ousting Ryoji Chubachi.
Telecommunications                    
         According to the Japan Times, a move to spin off the fiber-optic network division of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. is encountering government resistance. A government working group is concerned the move isn't financially viable and plans to urge NTT to do more to enhance the unit's autonomy, sources in the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said. The group might also recommend that NTT lower fees it charges other companies to use its fiber-optic infrastructure, with a view to promoting its broadband Internet service, they said. The working group plans to draw up its final policy recommendations this month. The spinoff has been advocated by private telecommunications carriers, including KDDI Corp. and Softbank Corp., on the grounds that it is necessary to level a playing field that has been dominated by the former state-owned telecom giant. Most telecom firms have no option but to lease fiber-optic lines from NTT.
         The Japanese government will sell a 3 percent stake in Nippon Telegraph and Telephone. NTT retired 7.97 percent of its total outstanding shares, increasing the government's ownership to 36.6 percent from 33.7 percent. The government is required by law to own at least one-third in NTT will sell the shares in excess of the threshold, the Nikkei reports. NTT has already showed interest in acquiring those shares, and is planning to acquire them through off-floor trading.
         Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. aims to achieve significant growth in operating profit from overseas businesses to more than US$500 million in the year ending March 2013. The company aims an operating profit margin of more than 5 percent on US$10 billion in overseas sales, Chief Financial Officer Hiroo Unoura said. NTT will acquire Dimension Data for 2.1 billion pounds (US$3.3 billion) to build its business abroad and expand in computer services as the domestic market slows. The company is considering other overseas deals to boost its security and cloud businesses and gain access to locally recognized brand names.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
         Sega Corp. will be producing and selling arcade games in the Chinese market this coming spring through a local joint venture. The Sega Sammy Holdings Inc. unit is the first major Japanese game machine manufacturer to receive government approval. The firm will be selling shooting and other games. Sega is distributing about 40 mobile phone games in the Chinese market thru China Mobile since licensing popular Chinese animated characters this summer. The company will feature cartoon characters in its arcade games.
         Tecmo Koei Holdings Co.'s game business targeting Internet and cellular phone users may reach 60 million yen (US$719,000) operating profit for the year ending March 31.The segment's sales is expected to surge 8 percent to 4.3 billion yen (US$51.1 million). The firm declined three unprofitable online game titles, cutting cost by 300 million yen (US$3.6 million). It released two new games for cell phone social networking sites between August and October. These titles helped boost the segment's profit by around 500 million yen (US$5.9 million).

Internet
         Yahoo Inc. hopes its venture with Microsoft Corp. can benefit Yahoo Japan Corp., Yahoo senior vice president for the Asia-Pacific region, Rose Tsou, said. Yahoo Japan will use Google's technology to run its Internet searches. Tsou said Yahoo is providing Alibaba Group with technology for email, display advertising and online search, as Yahoo will respect any Alibaba decision on which search technology it uses.
         Yahoo Japan Corp. started a business tie-up with Start Today Co., which operates the popular Zozotown online fashion store. About 100,000 products sold on Zozotown are available on Yahoo Japan's own shopping site under this deal. Taking advantage of Start Today's database, the Yahoo Japan shopping site shows Zozotown products in its search results. Clicking these items takes users to the Zozotown site. And if shoppers register their credit card numbers with Zozotown, transactions can be settled using their Yahoo Japan IDs. By venturing with Zozotown, the Yahoo Japan shopping site can produce more traffic. Start Today hopes to widen its customer base by tapping Yahoo Japan's far broader audience.
         Marui Group Co. and Rakuten Inc. will build a comprehensive partnership starting with online sales and possibly expanding into credit cards. As a first step, Marui will sell clothing, housewares and other private-label goods on Rakuten Ichiba, Rakuten's virtual shopping mall. Marui's out-of-store sales, like internet and catalog orders, rose 8.4 percent to 20.8 billion yen (US$249.57 million) in the year ended March. The firm sees Rakuten's customer base as a source of new growth. The partnership could help Marui reach out to consumers in regional cities where it lacks stores. Rakuten hopes to gain an edge on Amazon Japan KK and Yahoo Japan Corp., which is partnering with online apparel retailer Start Today Co. Marui and Rakuten are seen to consider working together in a broad range of businesses besides online sales, like credit cards, which provide the bulk of Marui's operating profit.
 
Korea
Telecommunications
         SK C&C Co. is under negotiations with Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA, and U.S. banks to supply mobile payment systems. The cooperation will allow their customers to pay for goods and services with their smartphones in a rare tie-up among the rival carriers. SK C&C, which offers a range of services from consulting to implementation and maintenance, has been under pressure to boost its bottom line and diversify beyond the highly saturated Korean market. It aims the mobile commerce space as a new growth engine. SK C&C has a dominant presence in its home market and has been setting up technology infrastructure and providing value-added services using the SK Telecom Co's network.
Hardware
         Smart TVs will capture 50 percent of the South Korean market by 2013 on the back of the rapid integration of the Internet into TV sets, a Samsung Electronics executive said. The executives expect worldwide smart TV sales to surpass 100 million sets over the next three years. Other experts believes that smart TVs will emerge as a major growth engine for the next-generation TV market in the next few years, with Web-connected TVs becoming the magnet for enticing viewers to various forms of media. Samsung will unveil an improved version of its smart TV during a January trade show in Las Vegas. LG Electronics, Inc. will also launch its smart TV in the domestic market later this month and on the global market in January.
Media, Gaming and Entertainment
         South Korean game developers are pursuing online games for smartphones, tablets and consoles in a country where many feel non-PC game titles do not bring in the big money. Though personal computers remain the most popular form of online gaming device to South Korea's hard-core gamers at the ongoing G-Star game fair, a growing number of software developers have made their new titles available on Apple's iPads and iPhones, consoles and personal computers. Game players can test working versions of the Three Kingdoms on personal computers as well as on several iPads at Nexon's G-Star booth. As the final piece is still in the pipeline, the iPad version is yet to offer some features available on the PC, such as an ability to engage in battles and wars with characters. 
Internet
      South Korea's online commercial transactions reached an all-time high in the third quarter as more businesses and consumers used the Internet to acquire products and services. The combined sales of local cyber shopping malls and other online businesses were at 206 trillion won (US$179 billion) in the July-September period, Statistics Korea said. This represents a 7 percent acceleration from the previous quarter as sales reached 204 trillion won (US$177 billion). Business-to-business transactions boosted 29.4 percent on-year to just over 190 trillion won (US$165 billion), with business-to-consumer transactions surging 26.2 percent to 3.8 trillion won (US$3.3 billion). Transactions between consumers however contracted 0.1 percent annually, along with business-to-government arrangements that posted minus growth of 3.6 percent to around 9 trillion won (US$7.8 billion) in the three-month period.
 
China
Internet
         The number of China's .cn domain names has dropped by 50 percent from around 13.7 million to over 6 million. The main reasons of the decline are the rigid regulations and the cancellation of a program that provided .cn domain names for the cost of CNY 1 (US$.15), The People's Daily Online reports citing Zhang Xiangdong, CEO of net.cn. In order to promote the use of .cn domain names, China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) allowed domain registration of a .cn domain for just CNY 1 (US$.15) in 2007. The number of CN domain names exceeded .com domain names in 2007 and topped 10 million in February 2008. At end-December 2009 the number of .cn domain names stood at 13.7 million.
         Alipay.com Co. Ltd. beat PayPal, said Wang Gang, general manager of the merchant division of Alipay.com as it captured at least 500 million registered users, processes seven million transactions every day and has a daily transaction volume of 2 billion yuan (US$302 million), Wang said. The company hopes to expand further into overseas markets, said Zhang Zhenghua. Most of Alipay's overseas transactions are still orders from Chinese buyers, such as purchases of clothes in other countries. The contribution from the global market remains small for Alipay. PayPal has also quickened its pace in China's online payment market.

Mobile/Wireless
         KongZhong’s third quarter revenues exceed expectation as it reached US$37.67 million. Mobile VAS revenues were US$20.78 million because of ongoing implementation of mobile VAS policy restrictions from mobile operator partners. The overall operating environment for the mobile VAS business continued to remain difficult, the company said. Total mobile game revenues in the third quarter reached US$13.93 million. Gross profit declined 9 percent year-on-year to US$15.61 million and with net profit of US$1.17 million. For the fourth quarter the company expects revenues of US$35.5 to 36.5 million and a gross profit of US$15.5 to 16.5 million.
Telecommunications
         China's three major communications firms added a combined 9.523 million mobile customers in October, ending the month with a total of 824.327 million mobile users, according to figures from the operators. China Mobile added 5.259 million new customers during October to bring its customer base to 575.016 million. Of the total, 16.981 million are 3G customers. China Telecom signed up 2.53 million new mobile subscribers in the month to bring its total to 85.51 million. However, the carrier continued shedding fixed-line customers and saw its customer base fall by 850,000 to end the month with a total of 177.43 million local access lines in service. China Telecom gained 840,000 broadband subscribers in October to hit a total of 61.91 million. China Unicom ended September with a total of 163.801 million mobile customers, which comprises 152.145 million 2G subscribers and 11.656 million 3G customers including 167,500 3G data card users.
         China Telecom Corp.'s third-generation mobile services had 10 million users at the end of October, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said. As of Oct. 31, China Telecom had fewer 3G users than its rivals China Mobile and China Unicom. China Mobile had 16.98 million 3G users at the end of October, ranking it first. China Unicom said it had 11.66 million 3G users, ranking it second. Government data can vary slightly from the figures provided by China's state-owned mobile carriers. China Telecom had 9.15 million 3G users at the end of September.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
·          Kingsoft expects to complete restructuring its games business by the end of this year, qq.com reported. The company may offer share-based compensation for staff in its major game development studio Xi Shan Ju in order to counter problems with loss of personnel. The company will split the 500-person studio into several project teams with 20-30 members each. Kingsoft ventured its security software division with domestic security software producer Keniu.
Semiconductor
      Datang Telecom Technology & Industry Holdings would acquire 20 percent in foundry chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMIC) for US$102 million. SMIC will use the proceeds of the sale to expand advanced process capacity at its 12-inch fabs. Datang controls 16.6 percent stake in the company.
Alternative Energy
      Trina Solar expects to have aggregate deliveries of 930-940MW this year, said company Chairman and CEO Jifan Gao. The predicted shipment volume represents a 135.6 percent y-o-y increase from the 399MW of shipments recorded last year. Trina Solar predicts to have cell and module capacity of 1GW and to generate annual sales revenues of 10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) by the end of 2010 as it conducts a 500MW capacity expansion project with an investment of US$500 million.
      LDK Solar started an offer to exchange up to US$300 million in aggregate principal amount of its currently outstanding 4.75 percent convertible senior notes, due 2013, for an equal aggregate principal amount of new similar-term, similar-coupon convertible senior notes with a cash consideration in order to reduce repurchase risk. LDK Solar secured a US$8.9 billion credit agreement with the policy bank China Development Bank in late September.


Disclosure: Author holds no positions in the stocks mentioned