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• Japan's Softbank Mobile has no plans to launch an operator-branded Android storefront, but the carrier is instead open to the possibility of launching a WAC-based app store in time to come, Softbank's Executive VP Ted Matsumoto told TelecomAsia. The carrier already plans to release widgets based on the WAC-2 standard by the second half of this year. Softbank is one of the four mobile operators backing the WAC initiative, which is being touted as operators' answer to end Apple and Google’s dominance in the mobile apps space.
• Sony Corporation is considering shutting down some of its company premises in Japan because of the continuing power shortages. In order to save energy, the company said it was planning to give its staff two weeks off during the summer months.
• Toshiba Corp.’s President Norio Sasaki said the company’s net income for the year ended March 31 may exceed Toshiba’s January estimate.The March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan will have a limited impact on earnings for the fiscal year just ended, Sasaki said. The company is sticking with its goal of winning 39 reactor orders by 2015. Toshiba expected full-year net income of 100 billion yen (US$1.2 billion). Revenue and operating profit may fall short of Toshiba’s January estimates.
• SK Telecom Co. will join hands with Groupon Korea, which released a local daily deal service, to give various discounts to its mobile service subscribers. Social commerce, or group acquiring, has grown immensely in South Korea in the last year as consumers flocked to Web sites offering half-priced deals for local restaurants, cafes, concerts and other retail shops amid soaring consumer prices. Part of the discount deals for SK Telecom subscribers will be pulled from Groupon Korea as well as from SK Telecom's subsidiaries and partners, including its online sales Web site. SK Telecom controls half of the country's wireless industry, which has about 51 million mobile phone users. The social commerce sector, estimated at 60 billion won (US$55.2 million) in 2010, is forecast to increase to 500 billion won (US$6 billion) this year.
• Google's mobile advertising arm AdMob has released a mobile metrics report for South Korea. The traffic from South Korea increased faster than any other country in Asia last year as AdMob received 2.1 billion ad requests from Korea in December 2010. Furthermore, 97 percent of South Korean traffic came from smartphones in December 2010, up from 75 percent a year earlier. The report also says that Korean mobile internet users are highly engaged and accelerating consumers of entertainment. Some 58 percent of respondents access the mobile internet at least five times a day and 29 percent of respondents spend at least one hour a day using mobile internet. Mobile internet users are middle aged, middle-income and male.
• Facebook reached agreement with Baidu to set up a new social networking site in China. The new website will not be linked to Facebook's global service, which is currently blocked in China. The agreement follows several meetings between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Baidu's chief executive Robin Li. Facebook had opened a Hong Kong office, its third in Asia, as Zuckerberg visited China in December, prompting suggestions that Beijing may eventually welcome the company. Zuckerberg met with Charles Chao, chief executive of popular web portal Sina.com, as well as Li to discuss the world's biggest web market, a hugely lucrative landscape. Sina.com is owned by Sina Corp.
• Sina Corp. will not spin off its microblog business Sina Weibo, Sina Chief Executive Charles Chao said. Sina is interested in making investments in companies in the e-commerce and mobile areas. Sina has no market share goal for its online search service in the near future. Sina will focus first on differentiating its search service, and in the long term the company could add real-time search functions to it.
• The Alibaba Group will expand in the e-reading market and may even release its own e-readers eventually. Alibaba will soon offer e-reading software that will run on Apple's iPhones, said TaoRan, senior director of public relations at Alibaba Group. The company hopes that the success of its online retail site Taobao.com will benefit its e-reading business. By expanding into the e-reading market, Alibaba will go head-to-head with companies that have already made a significant investment in the market, such as the Shanda Interactive, which said its online bookstore had about 2.5 million books uploaded by the end of last month. A trial version of the software is available on Weiphone.com, a major bulletin board system for Apple product users, and had been downloaded around 900 times.
• Renren Inc. filed to raise as much as US$584 million in an initial public offering to fund expansion. Renren will sell 53.1 million American depositary receipts for US$9 to US$11 each in an initial public offering, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. No U.S. social-networking sites have gone public, even as their popularity and advertising revenue soar. That’s created pent-up demand among investors. LinkedIn Corp., which announced plans in January to raise US$175 million in an IPO, may become the first. Renren has at least 160 million registered users, according to Analysys International in Beijing. Advertising has at least doubled each year since the site started selling space in 2008, the company has said. The online advertising market will triple to almost US$13 billion in China by 2014, estimates Susquehanna International Group LLP. Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank AG and Credit Suisse Group AG will lead the IPO. The ADRs will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker RENN, the prospectus showed.
• Tencent will invest 500 million yuan (US$76.5 million) in film and TV production over an unspecified time period. It has contacted sector giants including China Film Group Corporation and Huayi Brothers Media and may set up a subsidiary for the business specifically. The investment will comprise a part of the company's 5 billion yuan (US$765 million) new media investment fund established in January.
• Tencent marked a new peak concurrent users record of 2.7 million for its licensed first-person shooter game Cross Fire on April 15. Tencent's last PCU record for the game, of at least 2.3 million, was reached in mid-January.
• Baidu Union expects to give a revenue share of up to 1 billion yuan (US$153 million) to its partnering sites, 163.com cited. The company gave out 700 million yuan (US$107.2 million) and 760 million yuan (US$116 million) to its partners in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The company has also released an online recruitment platform at rencai.baidu.com, offering online job postings and resume services.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
· The9’s net loss increased by 322.3 percent q-o-q and 40.8 percent y-o-y to 289.5 million yuan (US$44.3 million) in the last quarter of 2010, due to investment loss in a Korean online game company. Its net revenue increased 8.2 percent q-o-q and 37.7 percent y-o-y to 28.8 million yuan (US$4.4 million) during the period. The company expects to release its in-house developed 2.5D Chinese fantasy MMORPG ShenXianZhuanfor domestic market in Q3 this year and a first-person shooter Firefall for the U.S. market in the fourth quarter.
• Zoom Technologies Inc. will develop new mobile phones for the global market after chip maker Qualcomm granted the China-based manufacturer new wireless patent licenses. The latest deal will allow Zoom and subsidiary Nollec Wireless to make new mobile devices using the code division multiple access technology that Qualcomm helped popularize. Specifically, Zoom has its licensed to develop WCDMA and TD-SCDMA subscriber units.
• LDK Solar has officially opened a new solar cell manufacturing site in Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, bringing the company's total annualized cell production capacity to 570MW. LDK Solar expects its module manufacturing costs will be significantly reduced beginning in the second quarter of 2011, as a result of the new facility. The company had finalized the acquisition of a 70 percent stake in Solar Power, Inc. for approximately US$33 million.