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IRG Technology, Media and Telecommunications Weekly Market Review (Week of 10 – 16 Jan 2011)

Japan
Telecommunications
         Subscriptions to fixed-line telephone service in Japan reached 57.62 million contracts as of Sept. 30, slipping 0.2 per cent from three months earlier to continue their decline. The figure has been in a downtrend since hitting 62.85 million at the end of March 1998. This fiscal year will likely mark the 13th straight year of declines. Subscriptions to Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. fixed-line phone services declined 2.3 per cent to 36.22 million. But IP (Internet Protocol) phone contracts rose 5.1 per cent to 16.17 million. Mobile phone contracts edged up 1.3 per cent to 119.18 million. A decline in PHS (personal handyphone system) plans was offset by a surge in subscribers to cellular phone plans. A surging number of people have cell phones exclusively.
         KDDI has purchased 93,634 own shares in the open market in December. The total purchase amount was 45.92 billion yen (US$554 million). KDDI's board approved a share repurchase plan in October which runs until 31 March. Under the program, KDDI has acquired back 185,589 own shares.
         Japanese mobile operators added a total of 661,400 new mobile customers in December to bring their total to 117.060 million mobile subscribers, figures from the Telecommunications Carrier Association (TCA) show. Softbank again led in subscriber additions during the month as it added 324,900 new customers to reach a total of 24.399 million. NTT Docomo attracted 169,600 new customers in December to bring its total to 57.210 million and KDDI won 95,400 new subscribers to reach a total of 32.527 million at end-December. Emobile signed up 71,400 new customers and ended the month with 2.924 million subscribers. Broadband Wireless Access provider UQ Communications gained 89,200 new customers in December to bring its total to 524,400. PHS provider Willcom shed 43,500 customers, which brings the company's total to 3.648 million. Willcom filed for bankruptcy last year and has begun a rehabilitation process.
Semiconductor    
         Japan’s sales of equipment used to make semiconductors and flat screens will grow more slowly than previously forecast next fiscal year, as memory chip prices fall and panel-makers cut investment, the Semiconductor Equipment Association of Japan said. Machinery sales will surge 2.2 percent from the current year to 1.67 trillion yen (US$20 billion) in the 12 months beginning April. In July the sales might surge 14.6 percent in the period. The decline in prices of memory chips will force semiconductor makers to invest less than earlier anticipated. A glut of panel supplies and the postponement of plant construction in China will cause investment in display equipment to drop. Revenue from chip-making gear will surge 4.5 percent to 1.3 trillion yen (US$15.6 billion) in the period, while sales of machines that make flat-panel displays will slide 5.1 percent to 370 billion yen (US$4.5 billion).
Internet
         Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ) has entered into a partnership agreement with Digital Garage to create a cloud-based information-sharing platform for enterprises. The first effort of this partnership will be the placement of Digital Garage's ASP micro-blogging service, BirdFish, on the IIJ GIO Service, IIJ's cloud service, with both companies promoting BirdFish sales. Thereafter they will develop an information-sharing platform solution that integrates IIJ's cloud-based groupware, IIJ GIO Cybozu Garoon SaaS, with BirdFish.
 
Korea
Telecommunications
         SK Group will raise its investment by 31 per cent this year from a year ago to 10.5 trillion won (US$9.4 billion). The biggest investment ever represents 10 per cent of SK Group's 2010 sales and is twice its 2005 investment. SK Group will spend 8.8 trillion won (US$7.9 billion) on its domestic business, including information and telecommunications. One of the group's flagships is SK Telecom Co., South Korea's top mobile carrier. Of its domestic capital spending, SK Group will use 1.4 trillion won (US$1.07 billion) toward research and development to preempt future core technologies such as green energy technologies. SK Group will invest 1.7 trillion won (US$1.5 billion) in the overseas exploration of natural resources including crude and natural gas. SK Group will hire 3,000 new employees this year. The company acquired a 20 per cent stake in Skytel in exchange for out-of-use telecommunication equipment in 1999.
         SK Telecom Co. has sold its entire 29.3 percent stake in Mongolia's Skytel LLC to existing shareholders raising a total of KRW28.3 billion (US$25.4 million) and marking its exit from the country as the market becomes saturated. The move is part of SK Telecom's ongoing strategy to pull out of unprofitable markets and shift its focus into other markets and business areas using more advanced network technology. In September last year, SK Telecom also sold its entire 3.8 percent stake in China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. for US$1.35 billion. In June 2008, SK Telecom sold its unprofitable U.S. mobile unit, Helio, for US$39 million in stock to Virgin Mobile USA Inc., which was acquired by Sprint Nextel. SK Telecom sold the stake to existing shareholders in Mongolia including Sun Clay Group and Global Com LLC.
Mobile/Wireless
         LG Uplus Corp has made inroads into the fast-growing mobile social networking market in South Korea in an effort to find new revenue sources. The wireless and fixed-line operator introduced beta versions of two mobile-based social networking services last month that are available to all mobile phone users. Its Twitter-like "Wagle" service connects users with people on contact lists and let them share real-time messages for free. "Placebook," a location-based social networking service akin to Foursquare in the U.S., allows users to "check-in" at a certain location and post reviews and pictures. The company, which trails behind bigger rivals SK Telecom and KT in South Korea, joined hands with Facebook to offer free mobile Facebook service to its subscribers last year.
 
China
Internet
         Twitter-like micro-blogging service will have 150 million users in 2011, with 10 million new users joining every month, cited the director of Sina's Marketing Strategy Center, Ai Yong. Sina had 50 million micro-blogging users by the end of October, and the company had formed a US$200 million application development fund with several investment firms.
Telecommunications
         China's telecommunication sector will attract total investment of 2 trillion yuan (US$301 billion) over the 12th Five Year Plan, according to Hu Shan, an expert from the Ministry of Industrial and Information Technology (MIIT). Hu Shan said that about 80 per cent of the total investment would be used to boost the development of broadband-related telecom services and infrastructure construction - an even greater share than the previous five-year's 40 percent. In the Chinese A-share market, broadband-related stocks include Fiberhome Telecom Technologies, Accelink Technologies, Sunsea Telecom, and Suzhou New Sea Union Telecom Technology.
         Five major telecom operators from Taiwan and China signed a contract to build the first undersea cable directly linking the island and the mainland to meet rising demand. Chang Xiaobing, chairman of China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd., signed the contract during a ceremony in Taipei that also included representatives from Chunghwa Telecom Co. and three other leading telecom operators from the island. Under the contract, which is pending the Taiwanese government's final approval, a 220-kilometre undersea cable will link Tamshui, a coastal town in the island's north, with southeast China's Fuzhou city. If the project is realized, the cable will become the first of its kind since 1949, when Taiwan and China split at the end of a civil war. Two other Chinese telecom operators will also sign the contract, thought to be worth around NT$800 million (US$26 million), at a later date. 
         ZTE Corp. aims to grow its global terminal shipments including handset, tablet and wireless data cards, by 40 percent this year as it is pushing its way to become the world's No. 3 handset vendor by 2013. The Chinese company, which is looking to make a big push into the U.S. smartphone and tablet market, will launch its first batch of smartphones and tablets in the U.S. with carriers in the second half of this year after making good progress in the European and Asian mobile internet device markets. ZTE has been known to supply low-cost telecom equipment such as base stations to companies such as China Mobile Ltd. but it is also keen on beefing up its devices business. ZTE is already offering either feature phones or wireless data cards to the top four U.S. carriers comprising Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA, AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., and Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodaphone Group PLC, but it still can't supply network equipments to the major American operators because of political reasons.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
·          Eighteen Chinese game companies established an "Online Games Intellectual Property Protection Alliance" on January 8 to combat illegal game servers and cheating programs. The companies include Changyou, Perfect World, Giant Interactive, Shanda Games, Tencent, NetEase, and The9.
 
Technology
      China Crescent Enterprises’s net income for the first nine months of 2010 amounted to US$3.3 million, up from US$1.9 million for the same period in 2009. Based in Dallas and with operations in China, CCE provides software development, outsourcing, systems integrator and hardware distribution services. CCE's revenue and net income through the first three quarters of 2010 has exceeded the company's 2009 annual revenue and net income results. China Crescent reached US$45.6 million in 2009 annual revenue with US$2.2 million in net income.
Alternative Energy
      LDK Solar forecasts to have revenue of US$870 million to US$910 million for the fourth quarter of 2010, bringing its full year total to US$3.5 billion to 3.7 billion. The figure represents a surge from previous guidance of US$710 million and US$750 million. LDK also raised guidance for fourth quarter wafer shipments to 615-620MW and module shipments to 160-165MW, bringing expected full year deliveries to 2.7-2.9GW of wafers and 800-900MW of modules. The company now expects its in-house polysilicon production for the quarter to reach 1,900-1,910MT, and its in-house cell production to hit 26-27MW, the report said. LDK narrowed its predicted gross margin to 25-27 percent for the quarter.


Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.