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SoftBank JV to buy U.S. cell towers; Tata, Bharti in talks to merge DTH biz

TMT News & Research: 2020 Recap

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SoftBank JV to buy U.S. cell towers; Tata, Bharti in talks to merge DTH biz

TOP NEWS

* SoftBank Group Corp. partnered with Australian property giant Lendlease Corp. to develop and own telecom infrastructure assets in the U.S., forming a joint venture that targets US$5 billion of assets over the medium term. Lendlease and Softbank have each committed US$200 million in equity to fund identified seed assets of roughly 8,000 rooftops and other telecom sites.

* Tata Group and Bharti Airtel Ltd. are in talks to merge their direct-to-home businesses, just a week after striking a deal to merge their consumer mobile businesses, CNBC-TV18 reports. The discussions have reportedly entered due diligence stage, with finalization expected to happen in at least several months. If the deal pushes through, the combined entity would become the biggest player in the Indian DTH space, capturing 44% of the market share.

* SoftBank Group is in early planning discussions to establish another fund that could be substantially larger than the Japanese conglomerate's US$93 billion Vision Fund, multiple sources told Recode. According to a previous report, SoftBank is considering plans for a US$300 billion asset management unit in the next four or five years that would serve as an umbrella entity for the Vision Fund.

* Meanwhile, SoftBank is expected to reach an agreement with Uber Technologies Inc. on pricing terms for its investment within a week, Arianna Huffington, Uber board member, said at The Wall Street Journal's WSJD.Live technology conference.

* As expected, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings Ltd. led a US$502 million funding round for Florida-based augmented reality startup Magic Leap. Other new investors include Singapore-based global fund EDBI, with existing investors such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Google Inc. also participating in the round.

PAN-ASIAN NEWS

* The CASBAA, or the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, formed Coalition Against Piracy, an industrywide coalition against content piracy, Rapid TV News reports. CAP plans to partner with similar initiatives in regions of the world, such as the newly formed Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.

JAPAN

* Hong Kong-based activist hedge fund Oasis Management Co. joined other Asatsu-DK Inc. shareholders in a growing opposition to Bain Capital's bid for the Japanese ad agency, which the shareholders think is too low, Reuters reports.

* Japanese advertising firm Dentsu Inc.'s U.K. unit Dentsu Aegis Network announced the signing of an agreement with South Africa-based advertising agency FoxP2 Holdings Proprietary Ltd. to acquire a majority stake in the company. FoxP2 will be integrated into Dentsu Aegis Network's operations to expand its services to local and international clients.

* Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. has launched a new video game publishing label UNTIES focused mainly on Japanese indies. The first title signed is 3D turn-based strategy game Tiny Metal, which will launch for PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC on Nov. 21.

* Tokyo-based NEC Corp.'s NEC Europe Ltd. appointed Hironobu Kurosaki as president and CEO. Kurosaki will be responsible for leading the growth of NEC Europe's business across its key business segments of public safety, public IT services and telecoms carrier solutions in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

SOUTH KOREA

* CJ HelloVision will launch an over-the-top device, Viewing, next month, Yonhap News Agency reports. The new device provides livestreaming and on-demand content through partnerships with local content platforms PooQ and TVING, as well as global content providers Netflix Inc. and YouTube LLC. The artificial intelligence-powered device can also recommend content based on machine-learning data.

* Naver Corp. has introduced its second AI speaker, Friends. Powered by Naver's voice recognition AI platform Clova, the new speaker can play music and provide information about the owner's schedule and traffic information. The company plans to add order food delivery function in November and also expand to shopping and reservation services.

* Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. showcased its first commercial cinema LED display at the Busan International Film Festival, Maeil Business Newspaper reports. The new display's 4K resolution and peak brightness levels allow a distortion-free presentation of colors. The company has installed its cinema LED screens at two theaters in South Korea so far and plans to expand its partnership with local theaters.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* GMedia, a Beijing-based company that develops the QR code technology, sued Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Alipay for copyright violation, Caixin reports. GMedia claims the two companies are using its technology for mobile payment without its consent.

* BBC Worldwide and Tencent struck a co-production deal for natural history series called "Blue Planet II," The Drum reports. The seven-part series will be aired simultaneously in China and the U.K. on Tencent's QQ platform and video app, as well as distributed to digital on-demand platforms in Greater China.

* Pony Ma, Tencent founder, chairman and CEO, cashed in US$270 million of shares last week, Yicai Global reports, citing data from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Ma sold 6 million shares, offloading 1.5 million shares daily in a span of four trading days starting Oct. 10. Ma's current shareholding is now down to about 820 million shares, which represent 8.63% ownership.

* Meanwhile, Tencent led a new financing round for Chinese media outlet Lanxiong Sports for an undisclosed amount, Yicai Global reports, citing Chinese language publication Beijing Business Today.

* Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd. Senior Vice President and Legendary Entertainment interim CEO Jack Gao resigned due to regulatory headwinds in China, according to The Hollywood Reporter, citing sources familiar with the matter.

* China Telecom Corp. Ltd. partnered with Alibaba to launch a new SIM card that offers free mobile data for using Alibaba's services, including the video streaming service Youku and the browser UC, jrj news reports.

* Baidu Inc. denied that it is cutting off staff in its research center in Fuzhou, Fujian province, Caixin reports. The Fujian R&D center belongs to 91.com, a Chinese equivalent of Alphabet Inc. unit Google Inc.'s Google Play that was bought by Baidu in 2013.

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* Indian media conglomerate Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. is preparing to launch a new digital entertainment platform called ZEE5 in the second half of the financial year 2018, Television Post reports. The new platform will replace the company's current subscription and ad-based platforms DittoTV and OZEE, and will have three revenue models: subscription-based, ad-based and transactional VOD services.

* Anup Vikal, Snapdeal's CFO and general counsel of Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd., the company that owns and runs Snapdeal, is leaving the company two months after merger talks with Flipkart India Pte. Ltd. collapsed, The Economic Times (India) reports, citing a statement from Kunal Bahl, CEO of Snapdeal.

* Indian general entertainment video-on-demand service SonyLiv added the food genre to its existing content offering, Indian Television reports.

* DSPORT, Discovery Communications India's sports channel, purchased broadcast rights to the Pakistan Super League 2018 cricket tournament, Television Post reports.

CENTRAL ASIA

* First Azerbaijani telecommunications satellite Azerspace-1/Africasat-1a began broadcasting On1, a Kyrgyzstan-based independent TV channel, according to Trend News Agency, citing FlySat, which publishes satellite frequency charts.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Indonesia's PT Smartfren Telecom Tbk plans to raise 15 trillion Indonesian rupiahs through a private placement, Kontan reports. Smartfren's shareholders will review the plan in the company's November extraordinary general meeting.

* Facebook Inc.'s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to meet Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on Oct. 30, Matichon Online reports. Topics of discussion may include Facebook's Southeast Asian expansion.

* Indonesia's PT Telekomunikasi Selular, or Telkomsel, won the bid to purchase the new 2.3 GHz telco frequency after submitting the highest bid of 1.007 trillion Indonesian rupiahs, Kompas reports.

* Thailand's Office of the Attorney General is setting up a work team to reopen telecom cases related to the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Kom Chad Leuk reports. Many players speculate that one of the cases will be on the telecom tax and concession act, for which a judgement has already been passed.

* Singaporean telco M1 Ltd. reported a 4.8% drop in net profit for the third quarter, The Straits Times reports.

* Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said that he will leave the matter regarding digital terrestrial TV operators' rental fees to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, INN reports. Operators have previously asked the prime minister to reduce the rental fees that they owe to the NBTC.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Australia's Inaugural Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks and top competition adviser Fred Hilmer from the previous Keating government said that the A$49 billion government-funded National Broadband Network could potentially be sold at a loss, The Australian reports. The two added that taxpayers could lose billions of dollars on the NBN.

* Service complaints on the National Broadband Network have more than doubled in 2016-2017 period as the rollout speeds up in metropolitan areas, up by 159.3% the Australian Financial Review reports, citing the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman annual report.

FEATURED NEWS

Data Dispatch: What Weinstein could bring to Colony's table in a deal: Wracked by allegations Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed and assaulted women in Hollywood for nearly 30 years, The Weinstein Co. is now considering a sale. The studio's low- and middle-budget titles have yielded mixed results at the box office.

European operators' original content ambitions face hurdles: Original content is fast emerging as the key battleground for Europe's mobile operators. But strong competition from over-the-top services and national broadcasters means that their efforts will not be plain sailing, industry observers said.

Conference Chatter: Virtual reality tourism initiatives help boost travel bookings: Creative executives tell conference attendees how virtual campaigns lifted travel purchases for Thomas Cook and timeshare sales for Wyndham.

CAPITAL Letters: Big tech's fearful grip on the market: Big tech stocks are leading this bull market. So why are we seeing so many negative headlines in financial and general news feeds that highlight our fear of big tech?

FEATURED RESEARCH

Broadcast Investor: Top 50 commercial TV station groups by US TVHHs, 2017-18: Under a Republican-led Federal Communications Commission and deregulatory-minded Chairman Ajit Pai, we could see more consolidation in the top 50 commercial TV station group owners in the coming year.

RECENT EARNINGS

Omnicom posts improved organic growth rate in North America during Q3: The ad agency holding company's primary region scored a 2.1% gain in revenue, aided by media, healthcare and event businesses.

Nozomi Ibayashi, Nicole Shiwon Kim, Frances Wang, Wil Hathaway and Kevin Osmond 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.