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Tuesday, 7 July 2009, 19:57 HKT/SGT

Source: IRG
IRG Technology, Media and Telecoms Weekly Asia Market Review

HONG KONG, July 7, 2009 - (ACN Newswire) - The following is an excerpt from IRG's TMT Weekly Market Review June 29 - July 5. IRG is a financial advisory and investment firm focused on the core growth sectors in Asia with particular focus on the telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) sectors.


- Panasonic Corp. said its domestic home-appliance unit may exceed its sales forecast this year, helped by government incentives to buy energy-saving products. The company expects the program to boost demand and help sales beat a projection of 640 billion yen (US$6.7 billion) in the year ending March 2010, according to Jun Ishii, the head of Panasonic Japan's marketing division for home appliances. The home-products unit overall was the most profitable of Panasonic's four main businesses last year, outdoing divisions making televisions and stereos, electrical components and homes. The July-to-September quarter will be critical for the Japanese unit's results, Ishii said, after the government introduced incentives in May to boost spending on appliances as a part of Prime Minister Taro Aso's plan to spur economic growth.

- Suning Appliance would pay 800 million yen (US$8.3 million) for 27.36 percent of Laox, making it the loss-making Japanese electronics retailer's biggest shareholder. Suning would pay 12 yen for each of 66.67 million shares and get two seats on the Laox board. Chinese firms have been looking for bargains in their efforts to expand abroad, but Suning said this was the first time a mainland firm had purchased a stake in a listed Japanese company. Suning hoped to return the flagging Laox to profit within a year or 18 months. Suning aimed to use Laox's expertise in the highly competitive Japanese consumer electronics retail market to help it improve business practices such as pricing policies, store layout and customer service.

- Sony Corp is considering developing a cellphone-game gear hybrid in a bid to better compete with Apple Inc's highly popular iPod and iPhone. The Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate launched its first Walkman three decades ago, dominating the portable music player market, but it has been running far behind the iPod and iPhone in recent years. Sony plans to set up a project team as early as July to develop a new product that combines functions of its portable game player and Sony Ericsson's mobile phones. Sony Ericsson is a cellphone joint venture between Sony and Sweden's Ericsson. A growing number of game-makers including Capcom and Square Enix are now offering software for the iPod and iPhone to take advantage of the Apple products' popularity, posing a threat to Sony's PlayStation Portable and Nintendo Co Ltd's DS.

- NTT Docomo Inc. will launch a new service jointly with Mizuho Bank to enable subscribers to transfer money via mobile phone handsets without opening new bank accounts. Rival KDDI Corp., the operator of the 'au' brand mobile phone service, has already been offering a similar banking service, but its service requires its users to open new bank accounts. Under NTT Docomo's money transfer service, subscribers input the receiver's phone number and part of their surname to make a payment of up to 20,000 yen (US$208.28), which will be charged on their monthly bills with a fee of 105 yen (US$1.09). The recipient can use the transferred money to pay their phone bills or put into their bank accounts via Mizuho Bank.

- NEC Electronics Corp's semiconductor orders would increase several percent this quarter, helped by demand for chips used in cars and liquid-crystal displays. Orders in the quarter probably jumped one and a half times from the previous three-month period, as manufacturers emerged from a period of excessive inventory cuts. NEC Electronics in May planned to cut labour and research costs by 90 billion yen (US$936 million) this financial year to break even at operating level this fiscal year. The company was increasing production to meet a recovery in demand. The factory-utilisation ratio, a measure of how close the plants are to operating at full capacity, would probably rise to 60 percent this quarter, from about 50 percent last quarter and 43 percent in the first quarter this year.

- Elpida Memory confirmed that it would receive 160 billion yen (US$1.6 billion) in aid and loans from the Japanese government, its Taiwanese partner and financial institutions after falling chip prices led to a record loss in the past fiscal year. The company would sell 30 billion yen in preferred shares to the state-run Development Bank of Japan by the end of next month. Taiwan Memory, a chipmaker set up by the island's government, planned to invest an additional 20 billion yen by March 31, the bank said, while banks would lend the balance of funding. Elpida is Japan's last hope in personal-computer memory chips in an industry dominated by South Korea's Samsung Electronics and Hynix Semiconductor. Makers of computer memory worldwide are seeking funding to survive the chip glut that drove Qimonda to seek bankruptcy protection and resulted in a record loss at Elpida last fiscal year.

- Shareholders at Japanese specialty chip maker Rohm Co. Ltd. voted against a US$156 million share buyback proposal by U.S. investment fund Brandes Investment Partners. Brandes, which has US$42.4 billion under management, had proposed that cash-rich Rohm buy back up to 2.5 million of its own shares for a maximum 15 billion yen (US$156 million).


- TU Media, the country's sole operator of satellite-based digital multimedia broadcasting (DMB), said the number of its subscribers topped 2 million, four years after it launched the service. More than 20 million terrestrial DMB devices, including mobile phones, were also sold as of the end of May. The numbers suggest that about 45 percent of South Korea's 49 million population enjoy mobile TV service. South Korea first launched its DMB service in 2005, the first country in the world to do so, with the development of digital radio transmission technology. It has since become a ubiquitous feature of society thanks to a tech-savvy population and widespread cellular phones and laptop computers. Dubbed "TVs in hand," the mobile service allows people to surf TV channels via palm-sized monitors built into their cell phones while sitting in an underground subway or traveling via train. Various modes of public transportation such as buses, trains, and subways have also begun to equip vehicles with monitors broadcasting programs at all times.

- LG Electronics aims to overtake Sony as the second-biggest this year, driven by stronger than expected demand. The company was maintaining its LCD television shipment target of 18 million units this year, which would be achievable, said Simon Kang, the head of the firm's home-entertainment division. Global revenue from LCD televisions would drop 6 percent this year to US$76 billion, researcher DisplaySearch said last week, higher than its previous estimate of US$66 billion. Worldwide LCD television shipments will rise 21 percent to 127 million units, compared with an earlier prediction of 120 million sets, because of higher demand from China and as more consumers replace bulkier glass-tube sets. LG aimed to increase sales of flat-panel televisions by as much as 42 percent this year and boost market share with new products and technologies. Shipments of LCD television sets might rise 50 percent to 18 million sets this year, while those of plasma models would probably climb 7 percent to 3 million sets.

- Tokyo-based Idemitsu Kosan has entered into a strategic alliance with South Korea's LG Display to develop high-performance organic light-emitting diode displays. Their agreement encompasses the cross licensing of patented technologies related to OLED, and mutual collaboration on OLED technologies. The alliance is seen as mutually beneficial, with Idemitsu securing a global display leader as a customer by supplying high-performance OLED materials and device-structure proposals to the Korean display maker, and LG Display gaining the tools to accelerate its growth in the OLED business. Idemitsu turned its attention to phosphorescent materials as well as fluorescent materials. The company has been active in joint development with device manufacturers Sony and Toshiba Mobile Display, in parallel, and expects its new partnership to further strengthen its OLED-material business.

- Samsung Electronics has won a ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission against Japan-based electronics company Sharp over patented technology for liquid crystal displays. The ITC found that Sharp infringed one of Samsung's patents in its LCD televisions and displays and ordered a ban on their import into the U.S. market. Samsung filed a complaint with the ITC in 2007 to investigate Sharp's products for infringing four of its patents. Sharp filed a counter-claim in March 2008. Earlier this month Sharp won a ruling from the ITC that found Samsung to have violated four Sharp patents and ordered a ban on the import of its LCD televisions, computer monitors, and professional displays in the U.S. market. In March Samsung won a LCD patent infringement suit against Sharp in the Tokyo District Court in Japan. In January the ITC ruled that Sharp infringed two Samsung LCD patents.


- Reliance Big TV Ltd. has seen a lot of investor interest in the company and is currently evaluating all proposals. Reliance Big TV, a direct-to-home television company, launched its services about 10 months ago. Prasad expects Big TV's customer base to touch 3 million by the close of the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2010, from 1.8 million currently. Big TV's current monthly average revenue per user - a key performance indicator is 200 rupees (US$4.18).

- Millicom said several companies are eyeing its Asian assets and that the strategic review of its Asian operations is proceeding as planned. The company appointed Goldman Sachs as an advisor on the process. During its first quarter 2009 results Millicom announced plans to conduct a strategic review of its Asian business that could see it divest some or all of its assets in the region. A retreat from Asia would leave the company with its Central and South American, and African businesses. The operator was undertaking the review due to increased competitive pressure particularly in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Millicom also operates services in Laos. The company's Asian operations generated revenues of US$67.5 million during the three months ended 31 March 2009, up 7 percent from a year earlier, a bigger growth rate than any of its other businesses achieved. Amid intensifying competition Millicom also managed to grow its subscriber base in Asia by 34 percent on-year to reach 4.54 million users, up from 3.38 million a year ago.

- Reliance Communications Ltd. plans to outsource the management of its wired services network in a deal likely to be worth more than US$750 million. The contract for wired services is likely to be bigger than the US$750 million, five-year outsourcing order given last year for its wireless network to a joint venture between Reliance Communications and France's Alcatel-Lucent. The joint venture, in which Alcatel-Lucent has a 67 percent stake, will be among the bidders for the new contract. Reliance is likely to first implement the system for the wired services network on an experimental basis in 5-10 service areas in the next three months, and then cover the entire country in the subsequent three months. Reliance Communications, part of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, is India's second-largest mobile services provider by subscriber base.

- Sterlite Technologies Ltd. will invest 2.50 billion rupees (US$52.3 million) to expand its optical-fiber manufacturing capacity. The optical-fiber making capacity - which is currently being expanded to 12 million kilometers a year - will eventually reach 20 million kilometers by 2011. Sterlite Technologies's board has also approved a plan to issue up to 7.3 million convertible warrants on preferential basis to founders.

- India's Tech Mahindra Ltd. is committed to developing a A$75 million (US$59.8 million) IT facility in Geelong, Australia, and continues to service Telstra Corp. despite losing a A$30 million-plus contract. The Indian company has also written to the World Bank to ask it to lift an eight-year ban on recently acquired Satyam Computer Services Ltd. Telstra was still a customer despite reports it had severed all ties.

- India's Kavveri Telecom Products Ltd. said one of its units has bought Canada's Trackcom Systems International Inc. With the acquisition, Kavveri Technologies International will have access to many radio frequency products and antennas up to 40 gigahertz that are useful for space, defense and telecom applications. The Kavveri Telecom board had in June given approval for the company to raise up to 300 million rupees (US$6.3 million) in a rights issue. It didn't say what the proceeds would be used for.

- Satyam Computer Services Ltd., the company at the center of India's biggest corporate fraud probe, is regaining customers after its takeover by Tech Mahindra Ltd. Gurnani has vowed to improve corporate governance and ties with customers as Satyam tries to win back business lost to rivals including Infosys Technologies Ltd. after a US$1 billion fraud. Satyam shares have rallied 64 percent since Tech Mahindra won control at an auction in April. The Hyderabad-based company, once India's fourth-largest software exporter, rose 0.6 percent to close at 77.4 rupees in Mumbai trading. The Sensitive Index added 1.7 percent. Gurnani, a former chief operating officer and founder of the Indian unit of Perot Systems Inc., has to reassure customers Satyam is a supplier they can rely on, especially given the current global recession.

- Mahindra Satyam will pitch for contracts that British Telecommunications PLC has signed with Infosys Technologies. BT owns 31 percent of Tech Mahindra Ltd., the new owner of Mahindra Satyam, which was formerly Satyam Computer Services.


- Indonesia's Department of Communication and Information Technology will extend a temporary ban on imports of new Blackberry models until Research in Motion Ltd. establishes a local office. Gatot Dewa Broto, head of public relations at the ministry, said the ministry will inform vendors that import and sell Blackberries that imports of any model of the handheld device not currently sold in Indonesia will be banned until the company, known as RIM, sets up a local office to offer aftersales services. The ban will be extended if RIM doesn't set up a local office. The ministry placed a temporary ban on imports of new Blackberry models. Talks with RIM so far have yielded little concrete progress with the Canadian firm, which promised only to conduct a feasibility study to set up a local office. Information from vendors indicates there are around 300,000 Blackberry users in Indonesia currently. Without the ban that number is likely to reach 1 million by the end of the year, but if the ban stays in place the increase in users is likely to be less.


- Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy unveiled the regional locations that will form the first stage of a planned multibillion dollar national broadband Internet network. The regions are Emerald and Longreach in Queensland state; Geraldton, in Western Australia; Darwin, in the Northern Territory; Broken Hill, in New South Wales; Victor Harbor, in South Australia; and South West Gippsland, in Victoria. The government launched a competitive tender to construct, operate, and maintain the backbone links, with construction expected to begin in September. The A$250 million (US$199.6 million) regional backbone link rollout is the first stage in a planned A$43 billion (US$34.3 billion) national network.

Topic: Corporate Announcement
Source: IRG

Sectors: Media & Marketing, IT Individual
From the Asia Corporate News Network

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