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

Japan
Telecommunications
         NTT Data Corp. has acquired a 51 percent interest in French systems engineering company Adelante SAS via German subsidiary intelligence AG. The German unit bought its stake in March 15 for an undisclosed sum. Adelante's main business is installing ERP. NTT Data intends to strengthen its system support and ERP installation services in such markets as France and Canada.
         Japan Communications Inc. signed a contract to lease wireless capacity in the U.S. from cellular phone carrier Sprint. The Japanese firm currently uses U.S. Cellular's network to provide a service that enables low-cost transmission of information between ATM networks and data centers. With access to Sprint's nationwide network, Japan Communications' new offerings would include a service for companies managing point-of-sales system devices and a service for individuals.
Internet
         Softbank Corp. and the Alibaba Group are in talks to form a partnership to jointly promote e-commerce between China and Japan. Alibaba group's e-commerce unit, Taobao, and Softbank-owned Yahoo Japan Corp. will help merchants, mainly small and medium companies, sell goods through each others' platforms. A small business that sells goods through Taobao in China would have the option of reaching Japanese customers through the Yahoo Japan site under the agreement. Softbank itself has a 33 percent stake in Alibaba Group and Softbank chief executive Masayoshi Son sits on Alibaba Group's board of directors. The idea emerged in a meeting between Son and Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma as they were discussing ideas to promote job creation by small and medium-sized companies in China and Japan. Such companies make up the bulk of Alibaba's customer base in China.
Semiconductor    
         Elpida Memory Inc. will begin producing 4-gigabit DRAM as early as the April-June quarter in response to growing demand for information technology equipment accompanying a surge in data center construction. Using 45-nanometer process technology established in the second half of last year, the company was able to increase chip capacity to 4G, double that of its previous largest-capacity chips. The new DRAM will be compatible with the new DDR3 standard, which has a 1.5-volt supply voltage. The company's 2G DRAM chips use the same processing technology. Capacity was increased by altering materials that store the electric charge and by re-engineering internal circuitry. The 4G chips are expected to be used in servers and personal computers. Elpida will likely offer memory modules composed of several 4G chips. This will enable chip count per module to be reduced, thereby helping cut power consumption.
Technology
         Japanese technology firm Toshiba has teamed up with TerraPower, a company controlled and promoted by Bill Gates, to develop nuclear reactors that can run for more than 100 years without periodic refueling of the uranium. Toshiba, which has already developed a nuclear reactor that can run for 30 years without refueling, is expected to use features of its existing technology for the new research. The primary challenge for the new reactor is the lack of readily available materials that can tolerate nuclear reactions for 100 years. Bill Gates is expected to invest millions of dollars in this initiative in a personal capacity.
         Fujitsu Ltd said Senior Executive Adviser Naoyuki Akikusa would step down from its board in June as the company looks to move past a public row over its handling of a change of president. Fujitsu has been under intense media scrutiny since announcing this month that it had dismissed Kuniaki Nozoe as president in September due to an inappropriate business relationship, rather than illness as was stated at the time.
Media, Entertainment and Gaming
         Leading Japanese game console maker Nintendo announced the launch of a new DS portable player. The new, upgraded device is different from current versions in that it allows users to play 3-D games even without the use of special aids like special glasses. The device will be backward compatible and allow older games to run on it. The company is yet to announce the price of the player.
         Shareholders at Japan's largest cable television services provider Jupiter Telecommunications Co. voted to approve a motion to integrate four officials from its new top shareholder KDDI Corp. into its board, the company said. The vote empowers three of the four officials from KDDI, which last month gained a 31.1 percent stake in Jupiter Telecommunications, widely known as J:Com, from the U.S. Liberty Global Inc. group to sit on the board as directors, while allowing the fourth to become an auditor. In the new 14-member board, eight persons, including President Tomoyuki Moriizumi, come from trading house Sumitomo Corp, which is one of two J:Com co-founders with Telecommunication International Inc., the predecessor of Liberty Global. Sumitomo, now the second-biggest shareholder with a 27.40 percent stake, is presently seeking to outpace KDDI in terms of voting rights by conducting a tender offer aimed at bolstering the stake to 40 percent. The tender offer, which got under way March 3, is to last through April 14. If the bid is successfully concluded, it will make Sumitomo the biggest J:Com shareholder.
 
Korea
Telecommunications
         Korea Telecom will aim to acquire a significant share of Korea’s 22 million mobile television subscribers as it announced plans to launch a mobile television service in the country in 2011. Currently, only SK Telecom offers mobile television services in Korea. Korea Telecom said that it continues to consider mobile television as a growth area and expects it to add a new revenue stream to the company.
         KT Corp and SK Telecom have shown interest in entering the Polish mobile market. The Korea Telecom is in talks with a potential Polish partner for developing new mobile services technology. The duo is expected to be weighing up options including forming a joint venture (JV) with an existing network operator or talking an ownership stake in a local cellco, with possible targets P4 (Play) or Polkomtel (Plus). SK Telecom is particularly interested in the mobile Internet market in the eastern European country.
Hardware
         Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. announced the launch of its new smartphone which runs on Google’s Android operating system for mobile phones and boasts of a new screen technology that is ideal for videos and other entertainment features. The company also said that it would partner with media companies to provide users with access to movies, television programs and also books, all on the mobile phone. Samsung is the world’s second largest handset maker and is trying to capture a larger market share in the smartphone market. In another company development, Lee Kun-hee, the largest shareholder in the Samsung Group and son of the founder, was reappointed as the Chairman of the Group. The Samsung Group, which generated revenues of over US$120 billion in 2009, is exploring future growth opportunities in sectors like health care, sustainable energy, financial services and environment.
         Lee Kun Hee, South Korea’s richest tycoon, returned as chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., filling the void left atop the world’s second-largest chipmaker after criminal charges of tax evasion led him to resign. The return of the son of Samsung Group’s founder may indicate the unraveling of South Korea’s family-run conglomerates criticized by outsiders as a model that undermines corporate governance, won’t happen any time soon. Samsung Electronics in December promoted Lee’s son, Lee Jae Yong, to executive vice president in a reorganization viewed as part of a hereditary succession. Lee, 68, is returning to Samsung as Asia’s biggest maker of chips, televisions and mobile phones forecasts higher earnings in 2010. The company aims to increase operating profit this year compared with 2009 when it had 10.9 trillion won (US$9.6 billion).
Technology
         Researchers at Korea’s Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology have developed a technology to convert animated books into 3-D format. Book readers wearing the 3-D googles will be able to experience 3-D images moving and falling over when they flip pages in the book. The technology can also be applied to view images in smartphones or enhance still images and paintings in museums. The scientists however clarified that the technology is still not ready for commercial production.
         Korea’s LG Electronics unveiled plans to acquire 25% share in the global market for 2-D televisions by the end of 2010. The company aims to sell around 1 million 3-D sets to achieve this objective. The company expects the global 3-D television set market to expand to 13 million in 2011, a 3-fold increase from the estimated 3.8 million in 2010. The company also launched Infinia, the new range of 3-D television offerings from the company.
 
China
Media, Gaming and Entertainment
         NASDAQ listed online game developer and operator Perfect World announced the that it has entered into agreements to acquire 100% equity interest in C&C Media Co., Ltd., a Japanese online game service operator. The transaction is estimated to be worth US$21 million. f C&C Media is ATLUS Co., a Japanese computer and video game developer, publisher and distributor, is currently the majority shareholder of C&C Media.
         The9 has entered into a definitive agreement to invest approximately US$20 million for a majority stake in U.S.-based online game developer Red 5 Studios. The9 said that it purchased stake in online game development studio Red 5 Studios in order to develop online games for the Chinese market, but most of Red 5's former Blizzard Entertainment employees, excluding Red 5 CEO Mark Kern, had left the company.
         Perfect World jumped further ahead in ranking among Chinese overseas-listed gamers in 2009. Perfect World cheered a fastest 49.2 percent surge in revenue, which was at US$314.2 million, following Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s US$1.4 billion, Shanda Interactive's US$704 million and Netease.com's US$494 million. Its exports as well as regional business coverage all topped other local peers for the third year in a row, boosted 15.3 percent to US$214.6 million since 2008. The firm accrued 39.4 percent growth to reach a 25.6 billion yuan market value, but the upward paces has largely slowed down as compared to the 60-percent growth in 2007.
         NDS has signed a contract with set-top box manufacturer Changhong to develop a range of interactive applications for the Chinese cable market. NDS will also market the resulting applications to other global geographies. Changhong will join the NDS MediaHighway STB software developer community in China to develop applications for the digital-TV market. The two companies will work together to develop two-way services for next generation broadcast platforms, focusing on applications that provide public information and enhance the viewing experience while offering new advertising services such as interactive ads.
Telecommunications
         The smallest of China’s three large mobile phone companies, China Telecom declared last quarter and full year results for 2009. Quarterly profit stood at 3 billion yuan (US$439 million). Net income for 2009 full year stood at 14.4 billion yuan (US$2.11 billion), a 1500% increase on 2008 earnings of 884 million yuan (US$129 million). The company registered revenues of 209.3 billion yuan (US$30.6 billion) compared to 186.5 billion yuan (US$27.3 billion) in 2008. The company also announced that it expected to spend about US$1.45 billion on handset subsidies in 2010, as much as it did in 2009. The subsidies would be targeted towards promoting higher-end 3G handsets, to take advantage of the company’s extensive investment in 3G networks in the past.
         China Unicom, one of the three large mobile companies in China announced plans to issue 15 billion yuan (US$2.2 billion) of commercial paper by the end of March 2010. The company is still negotiating with various lenders on the price and the coupon rate is yet to be announced. The company also announced its financial results for full year ending 2009. Net income for the year stood at 9.55 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) against revenues of 153 billion yuan (US$22.4 billion). Comparisons over the previous year might not be indicative as the company has radically transformed itself by selling non-strategic assets in 2009. Like its two rivals China Mobile and China Telecom, the company reiterated its focus on promoting 3G services and aims to acquire around 10 million 3G subscribers in 2010.
         China Mobile announced the most significant development in China’s attempts to converge telecom and cable television through the launch of a new mobile television service in collaboration with China Broadcasting Corp. The service, which runs on China’s CMMB format allows mobile users to access their favorite television programs on their mobile handsets for a nominal price. The company has already sold around 850,000 customers and plans to acquire 5 million customers for the service soon.
         ZTE Corporation fired 6,000 employees in 2009 due to inability to performance their jobs. ZTE has a bottom 5 percent go policy to forcibly kick out 5 percent worst employees every year.
         China Telecom Co Ltd added 3.01 million users of its 3G services based on WCDMA technology, slightly in decline from 3.05 million in January. The Chinese carrier's 3G subscribers totaled 62.15 million. The total number of local access line users decreased by 1.03 million to 185.63 million in February. Broadband subscribers increased by 780,000 to 55.03 million, after adding 790,000 in January. China Telecom had a net profit of 14.42 billion yuan (US$2.1 billion) for 2009. In 2010, the carrier plans to increase its capital expenditure slightly.
         JP Morgan has disposed 25.37 million shares of China Telecom, at HK$3.39 (US$.436) per share. The total consideration amounted to HK$86 million (US$11.1 million). JP Morgan's shareholding in the company has then dropped to 5.88 percent. 
Internet
         A top Chinese official has said the nation's online population, already the largest in the world, is expected to exceed 500 million in the next two to three years. Three-quarters of the web newcomers over the next few years would be from rural areas. China already has 384 million online users. Its spiraling online population has turned the Internet into a forum for citizens to express their opinions in a way rarely seen in a country where the traditional media is under strict government control. The growing strength and influence of the web population has prompted concern in Beijing about the Internet's potential as a tool for generating social unrest, and authorities have stepped up surveillance in recent years.
         Alibaba.com will rely more on sales of its non-core offerings to drive revenue growth this year. The world's leading business-to-business e-commerce provider covering more than 240 countries, touts dozens of these value-added services, including a small loans program, a wholesale transaction platform, website development software and virtual showrooms. Alibaba.com, which had 615,212 paying members out of 47.73 million registered subscribers as of December, estimated value-added services contributed up to 18 percent to last year's total turnover, from its online China marketplace for domestic traders and international marketplace for global importers and exporters. The company expects that contribution to exceed 20 percent this year.
         Google Inc. announced that it has stopped censoring internet search results in China and started routing search requests originating in China to its servers in Hong Kong. The Chinese Government expressed its strong disappointment at Google’s move and accused the company of violating a written agreement it signed before entering the Chinese market. Google is protesting against what it alleges is Chinese inaction against cyber crimes perpetuated on the Google network from China and also the Chinese Government’s stringent censorship policies. Mobile companies in China have already entered into agreements with other search platforms like Bing and Baidu to replace Google’s search service for their customers. Hong Kong’s media and telecommunications baron Li-ka-Shing controlled news portal tom.com also announced that it would stop using Google as the company failed to comply with Chinese laws.
         Google’s potential exit from the Chinese market may benefit local internet search giant Baidu, which already controls 60% of the search industry in China. Baidu could add almost US$300 million to its revenues even if it captures half of Google’s market share in China. Baidu is trading at a forward price to earnings ratio of 61 amidst expectations of a strong performance this year.
         U.S based internet domain name provider GoDaddy.com announced that it is stopping registration of domain name requests originating from China in protest of the censorship policies of the Chinese Government. The company said that it had to ward off a hacking threat that originated in China last year and accused the Chinese government of focusing more on censorship and using the internet as a monitoring tool than on preventing and controlling cyber crimes.
         Tom Group is betting on the China's rapidly developing mobile broadband market to help forge its identity and drive growth. The market may have had some difficulty grasping Tom's vision as it made strategic acquisitions, secured key alliances and fine-tuned operations over the past 10 years, but that is about to change. Tom has four core business units: internet, publishing, outdoor media, and television and entertainment Tom has seen its work with the country's three major telecommunications network operators, 120 handset manufacturers and about 300 content providers steadily ramp up as the country's high-speed 3G infrastructure gets built and deployed.
         The number of people in China subscribing to Internet protocol television will nearly double this year as the government pushes the country's telecommunications, broadcast and Internet operators to converge. Subscriber growth will also stem from competition between telecom carriers and broadcast operators to carve out their own territories and the prevalent strategy to bundle phone and wireless broadband with IPTV services, which delivers programming over a broadband connection to televisions connected to a set-top box. The Chinese government's policy to encourage the three sectors to enter one another's fields and provide services is skewed against telecom carriers. Broadcast operators hold the Internet protocol TV licenses and have more flexibility in the range of services they can provide, while telecom carriers face strong regulation.
Hardware
         Computer maker Dell unveiled a range of low-cost server and storage products for businesses in China. Dell’s CEO, Micheal Dell said that the company expects sales of US$5 billion in China for 2010. The company’s revenues grew by 81% in the last quarter of 2009 in the country. Dell also controls 60% of the country’s server market. China is the fastest growing PC market in the world and is already the second largest. In a related development, Dell announced the launch of a new server range for the global markets targeted at large cloud environments called the PowerEdge C-series servers. These servers will be sold together with the company’s services that help customers manage cloud environments.
Software
         Kingdee International Software Group Co., Ltd. ‘s net profit up 17 percent to 212.5 million yuan (US$31.1 million) with revenue up 13.9 percent. A final dividend of 2.2 HK cents per share was proposed. The company plans to expand into different industries According to the company, the growth was a result of a surge in income from services and sales of enterprise application products. . Kingdee is a China-based enterprise management software and middleware provider. Chief executive officer Xu Shaochun said Kingdee plans to acquire property developer Jama and manufacturer Pro Way this year.
         UFIDA Software Co. Ltd., a provider of management software solutions in Asia said it spent a total of 132 million yuan (US$19.3 million) to purchase Beijing-Space Time Science & Technology Co Ltd, two firms based in Guangzhou and eleven other software developers. As of Dec. 31, 2009, the Shanghai-listed firm had 1.62 billion yuan (US$237 million) in cash or cash equivalents. The company will continue to seize opportunities for mergers and acquisitions to optimize industrial structure. The company has allocated RMB 100 million (US$14.6 million) for acquisitions this year. according to Beijing-based CCID Consulting, Ufida, which last year had a 27% share of the market in China, has become the country's top enterprise resource planning software vendor.


Disclosure: Director