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SoftBank wants to join Swiss Re board; Reliance heads US$9.3B digital investment

TOP NEWS

* SoftBank Group Corp. is in discussions with Swiss Re AG over potentially taking several seats on the reinsurer's board, the Financial Times reported, citing people close to the matter. SoftBank founder, Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son and Swiss Re Chairman Walter Kielholz will meet in the coming weeks to further talks on the deal. Board representation would give SoftBank influence over how Swiss Re invests its US$161 billion portfolio.

* India's Reliance Industries Ltd., along with more than 20 global technology companies, will invest 600 billion Indian rupees over 10 years to build an integrated industrial area in Maharashtra, Reuters reported, citing a statement by Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani. Reliance's partners in the project include Cisco Systems Inc., Siemens AG, Corning Inc., HP Inc., Dell Inc., Nokia Corp. and NVIDIA Corp. It will be India's first integrated digital industrial area, but Ambani did not say when the first phase of the project will begin.

* Uber Technologies Inc. is preparing to sell its Southeast Asian business to Singapore-based ride-hailing company Grab in exchange for a considerable stake in the latter, according to sources with knowledge of the issue. A deal has not been reached yet and the timing of any such deal is not confirmed, Asia One reports.

JAPAN

* Sony Corp. is forming a joint venture to develop an artificial intelligence-based taxi-hailing system in Japan, The Nikkei reports. Partners for the joint venture include Daiwa Motor Transportation, Hinomaru Kotsu, Kokusai Motorcars, Green Cab and the Checker Cab group.

* Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. entered into definitive agreements to sell SME Ichigaya Building at Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, the SME Nogizaka Building at Minato-ku, Tokyo, and their related premises to an unspecified buyer. The Japanese electronics company expects to gain about ¥10 billion from the sale in operating profit in the fourth quarter of fiscal year ending March 31, 2018.

* Toshiba Corp. will invest about ¥5 billion in its Philippine production facilities under a plan to launch high-capacity conventional hard-disk drives during the first half of the year, The Nikkei reports.

* Dentsu Inc., Japan's largest advertising agency, is preparing for slower growth in the next two years as it slashes working hours in response to the suicide of an employee that was deemed a "karoshi" or death by overwork, The Nikkei reports. Dentsu CEO Toshihiro Yamamoto said the company aims to boost productivity to compensate for profit declines.

SOUTH KOREA

* SK Telecom Co. Ltd. is set to unveil its new virtual reality service oksusu Social VR, which combines its media platform service oksusu and social community functions, at the Mobile World Congress 2018, ET News reports. Users wearing VR equipment can interact with other users in virtual space, watching the same media content. The service will be launched in the second half of this year.

* LoEn Entertainment Inc., a Kakao Corp. unit, is stepping up its production of drama content via production subsidiary Mega Monster, Digital Times reports. Mega Monster is currently making a drama series to launch in the first half of this year, along with recruiting a group of new writers.

* KT Corp. and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology succeeded in building a one-to-many quantum-encrypted communication test network and transmitting encryption keys from one server to multiple clients, ZDNet Korea reports.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. launched an end-to-end user trial for its 5G network in Vancouver, Canada, in partnership with TELUS. The trial is conducted using specific 5G in-home equipment and has achieved a download speed of more than 2Gbps for single users.

* Shanghai-based game developer Giant Interactive Group Inc. said that its smartphone game "Battle of Balls" attained a 100 million increase in downloads in 2017, with global downloads reaching 400 million, Donews reports.

* Leeco Inc. is reportedly gearing up to launch a smartphone with an 18:9 aspect ratio design and a quad camera setup. Images of the new full-screen device have been spotted on China's social media website Weibo, according to Tech Radar.

* China produced 1.9 billion mobile phones in 2017, with smartphones taking up 74.3% and exports rising by 13.9% compared to 2016, National Business Daily reports.

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* India's Aircel Ltd. is set to file for bankruptcy at the country's National Company Law Tribunal, The Economic Times reported, citing sources. Aircel, which reportedly dissolved its current board ahead of the application, is working to nominate new board members and an insolvency professional to begin the bankruptcy process. The bankruptcy application follows Aircel's Malaysian parent Maxis Bhd. reportedly backing out of plans to invest up to US$1.1 billion in the debt-laden company, supposedly to help restructure debt worth 155 billion Indian rupees.

* Google Inc. announced that users in India can now pay their bills with its Tez digital payment app without any transaction charges.

* STAR India Pvt. Ltd.'s over the top platform Hotstar slashed the subscription price of its annual, half-yearly and quarterly plans, Times Now reports. The annual subscription plan has been reduced by 49% to 1,200 rupees, the six-month plan cut down 25% to 894 rupees, and the quarterly plan slashed 16% to 498 rupees.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* The Competition Commission of Singapore said it plans to do a further in-depth assessment of the tie-up between the city-state's top taxi operator ComfortDelGro Corp. Ltd and Uber following an initial review. The agency said it had requested further information from both parties to be submitted by March 5, after which it will assess whether their tie-up infringes Singapore's competition laws.

* Malaysian streaming service iflix Sdn. Bhd. formed a two-year distribution agreement with Lego Systems to show Lego's popular series in African and Middle Eastern markets, Business Daily Africa reports. Subscribers in those markets will be able to access 122 episodes across 10 titles by Lego Kids.

* Thailand will launch KNACKSAT, the country's first-ever entirely locally built satellite, by the end of the year, Krungthep Turakij reports.

* U Mobile appointed Neil Tomkinson as chief information officer, Sun Daily reports. Tomkinson, who replaces outgoing CIO Tan Chen Sen, previously worked for South Africa-based telco MTN Next!. The Malaysian telco operator also appointed Woon Ooi Yuen as deputy chief technology officer. He joins U Mobile with two decades of related experience from companies such as Total Access Communication Public Co. Ltd., DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd and Ericsson.

* Telekom Malaysia appointed Dato' Mohd Rais Azhar as its new chief technology & innovation officer. He replaces Dato' Rafaai Samsi following his retirement.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* British Broadcasting Corp.'s BBC Studios launched a production arm in Australia, with its first commissioned project, "Stargazing Live 2" to be produced for the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

* New York-based WeWork Cos., which already has branches in Sydney and Melbourne, is set to launch in Brisbane this year, The Australian reports.

FEATURED NEWS

Data Dispatch: Stock-picking hedge funds load up on industrials in Q4'17: Industrial stocks were the main pick for 10 of the top equity-focused hedge funds in Q4'17, S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis showed.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of TV & Film: NBCUniversal's filmed entertainment revenue hits new high in 2017: NBCUniversal recently reported financial results for the year 2017; total filmed entertainment revenue grew 20.4% in 2017 to almost $7.66 billion, compared to $6.36 billion in 2016.

Economics of Internet: Audioboom Group to merge with Triton Digital: Audioboom Group revealed plans to combine with U.S. rival audio technology company Triton Digital in a reverse takeover deal for $186.2 million. The merger would mesh the podcasting expertise of AudioBoom with the leading streaming-audio metrics company.

Joji Sakurai, Myungran Ha, Emily Lai, Ed Eduard and Patrick Tibke contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. Hong Kong time. Some external links may require a subscription.