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Apple, Amazon, Google eye Toshiba chip biz; Tencent's WeChat to enter Europe

TOP NEWS

* Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. unit Google Inc. have each submitted bids for Toshiba Corp.'s NAND flash memory unit, Reuters reports, citing the Yomiuri Shimbun daily. The struggling Japanese company gained shareholder approval to spin off its memory chip business as part of a plan to raise at least US$9 billion and offset a write-down at Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Currently there are about 10 potential bidders, including Western Digital Corp., Micron Technology Inc. and South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix, a unit of SK Group.

* Tencent Holdings Ltd.'s Chinese messaging and social media app WeChat is eyeing a European expansion for its e-commerce and payment functions, London's Financial Times reports. WeChat's e-commerce platform will first be available to brands in the U.K., allowing them to sell products in China, and later to other European markets such as France and Germany.

PAN-ASIAN NEWS

* China-based BeiDou Navigation Satellite System plans to expand further into Sri Lanka and Thailand, and eventually to the entire Southeast Asia region as it seeks to go global, Xinhua News Agency reports. At least 10 Continuously Operating Reference Stations are planned to be developed in Sri Lanka.

JAPAN

* Panasonic Corp. on April 1 established corporate venture capital unit Panasonic Ventures LLC in the U.S. with initial investments of about ¥11.1 billion or US$100 million. The new company will invest in startup companies with unique business models or products and services.

* Japan's four major television networks — Tokyo Broadcasting System's Television Inc., TV Asahi Corp., TV Tokyo Corp. and Fuji Television Network Inc. — will invest in JOCDN Inc., a joint venture launched by Nippon Television Network Corp. and internet service provider Internet Initiative Japan Inc., The Nikkei reports. JOCDN will develop a system for simultaneously broadcasting TV programs over the air and the internet. After the deal is finalized, IIJ will own 20% of JOCDN's shares, with the remaining 80% divided equally by the networks.

* Internet and media company CyberAgent Inc. announced that it will acquire on May 1 Media Shakers Inc., operator of the website 'R25', from its parent company Recruit Holdings Co. Ltd. CyberAgent plans to use the acquisition to launch new digital media by the summer.

SOUTH KOREA

* Samsung Group heir apparent Lee Jae-yong, along with four other Samsung executives who are accused of bribery charges, on April 7 will attend the first trial in the Seoul Central District Court, Newsis reports. Unlike during the preparatory proceedings, the accused are required to be physically present for the trial. Lee's attorney has reportedly claimed that the 43.3 billion South Korean won in question was not provided in return for a favor.

* The South Korean government in 2017 plans to invest 41.2 billion won in 3D-printing technologies and related industries, ZDNet Korea reports. The investment is aimed at creating new sources of demand by using 3D-printed components for public projects and strengthening technological competitiveness by supporting research and development efforts.

* With some help from crowdfunding, the South Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning will support multichannel-network content creators with a total of 200 million won, E Daily reports. The ministry will receive applications until May 12, and the selected candidates can get up to 20 million won in funding.

* Chairman of South Korean telco KT Corp. Hwang Chang-gyu pledged to increase the KT Group's revenue to more than 10 trillion won this year for the first time in the group's history, Money Today reports. At a company event, Hwang reportedly emphasized the importance of five core growth platforms: media, smart energy, financial services, disaster management and public value.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Alibaba Pictures will continue to subsidize online movie ticket platform Tao Piao Piao, despite its contribution to the company's loss of 976 million Chinese yuan in 2016. Alibaba said that because of the subsidy, Tao Piao Piao's market share is growing in China.

* Alibaba will infuse 2 billion Chinese yuan into its online streaming platform Tudou to add professional user-generated content, reports Caixin. The 2 billion yuan will go to three sectors: a monthly bonus for 2,000 selected content creators, advertising dividends and partnerships.

* Chinese bike-sharing service provider OFO will be available on Didi's app in April, Sina reports. The move is intended to compete against its rival Mobike, which on March 29 made its hailing service accessible through WeChat.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Malaysia-based pay TV operator Astro announced the relaunch of Astro Go, an app that allows Astro's subscribers to watch the pay TV content on a mobile device. The app also includes three exclusive channels — Comedy Central, Korean drama channel K-PLUS and Japanese anime and pop culture channel ANIPLUS.

* Singapore telco M1 Ltd announced a partnership with Chinese telco Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. to launch a cloud-based virtual Enhanced Packet Core network in Singapore. The new service is designed to reduce M1 downtime maintenance and to enhance the core network resiliency of M1 to support Singapore's Smart Nation program and Internet of Things deployment.

* Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission said 11 digital TV channels applied for license-payment deadline extensions, Krungthep Turakij reports. It also approved subsidies for nine channels for the costs incurred from the must-carry rule.

* In other NBTC news, the regulator hopes to start issuing IoT licenses by October, Prachachat reports. It said that IoT providers will need a license to operate, while self-built smart homes and smart farms will likely not need one.

* Philippines-based telco giant Smart Communications' application for a franchise extension has been cleared by the country's Congress and is now awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte's approval, BusinessWorld reports.

* Indonesian telco PT XL Axiata Tbk allocated 2.1 trillion rupiah, or 30% of its total capital expenditure, to upgrade its network, Indotelko reports. The upgrade, which focuses on XL's plan to penetrate markets outside Java, will include the construction of 4,000 kilometers of fiber optic cables, 13,800 transceiver stations, and the replacement of its Time Division Multiplexing infrastructure to Internet Protocol.

* Thai state enterprise CAT Telecom launched Iris Cloud, a prepaid data storage service for small and medium-sized enterprises, Krungthep Turakij reports.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission denied Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp., National Australia Bank Ltd. and Bendigo & Adelaide Bank Ltd. authorization to collectively bargain with Apple and boycott Apple Pay. The banks had wanted access to Apple's near-field communications antenna in iPhones. That access would allow the banks to offer their own digital wallets to iPhone customers in competition with Apple's digital wallet, without using Apple Pay.

* The Australian government has now joined the global boycott of Google ads by suspending "all non-corporate campaign advertising from the YouTube platform", according to a media release.

* Australia's Nine Network, a unit of Nine Entertainment Co. Pty Ltd., has violated gambling advertising rules on children's TV shows, iTWire reports, citing the Australian and Communications Media Authority. According to the ACMA, Nine has taken precautions to reduce the chances of future breaches.

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* Apple opened its App Accelerator program in Bangalore, which helps developers improve their iOS app development skills.

* Reliance Industries Ltd.'s Reliance Jio secured 72 million paying customers under its Prime package and decided to extend the plan's deadline to April 15, Reuters reports, citing the company.

* The Indian Cellular Association is moving against a Department of Telecommunications mandate that all mobile phones have GPS capability by 2018, The Economic Times (India) reports. The ICA urged the regulatory body to drop the provision.

FEATURED NEWS

Conference Chatter: China's old-fashioned insurers stymying innovation, Zhong An CFO says: "We are calling peers in the traditional insurance industry to embrace technology," John Bi, the finance chief of Zhong An Online P&C Insurance, told a conference in Hong Kong.

CAPITAL Letters: Parsing fact from fiction in media, telecommunications: In an era of fake news and bizarre real headlines, it has become increasingly difficult to tell what is fantasy these days. See if you can spot fact from fiction in blogger Bishop Cheen's annual April Fools' quiz.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Internet: Social ad revenues soar to new highs in 2016: Social ad revenues generated by Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn soared in 2016 although Facebook was responsible for the lion's share of the gains, generating nearly 90% of total combined revenues.

Economics of TV & Film: 'Rogue One' rockets to the top of April video revenue projection charts: A few more year-end 2016 box office hits are set for home video release in April, along with the first big hit of 2017.

Nozomi Ibayashi, Myungran Ha, Frances Wang, Kevin Osmond and Wil Hathaway 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.