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Vodafone completes sale of NZ unit; ByteDance acquires UK-based AI music startup

S&P Global Market Intelligence provides a wrap-up of Asia-Pacific media and communications deal announcements, completions and updates from July 15 to Aug. 5.

TOP NEWS

* Vodafone Group PLC completed the NZ$3.4 billion sale of its unit Vodafone New Zealand Ltd. to a consortium including infrastructure investment company Infratil Ltd. and Brookfield Asset Management. The transaction recently secured approval from the Overseas Investment Office and New Zealand's Commerce Commission. Vodafone will use the sale proceeds to pay down its net debt.

* Beijing ByteDance Technology Co. Ltd., parent company of video app TikTok, has acquired Jukedeck Ltd., a U.K.-based artificial intelligence music startup. The acquisition was first reported by Music Ally, which noticed that Jukedeck's CEO, as well as several of its employees, now list ByteDance as their employer on LinkedIn Corp.

* A consortium led by Canadian investment firm Brookfield Asset Management Inc. struck a deal to acquire Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.'s mobile towers unit Reliance Jio Infratel Pvt. Ltd. via an investment of 252.15 billion Indian rupees, or about US$3.66 billion. In exchange for the investment, Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Ltd. would issue units in the Tower Infrastructure Trust to Brookfield affiliate BIF IV Jarvis India Pte. Ltd. and some co-investors.

TECHNOLOGY

* The U.S. Department of Justice said July 26 that it will approve T-Mobile US Inc.'s pending merger with SoftBank Group Corp.-owned Sprint Corp. on the condition that the combined entity divests multiple wireless assets to DISH Network Corp. The settlement agreement paves the way for broad federal approval of the deal despite pending challenges at the state level.

* Baidu Inc. acquired a 37.4% stake in online reading app Qimao Novels, KrASIA reported, citing a corporate information document. Qimao offers readers free access to any novel on its platform and derives revenue from advertisers.

* South Korea's Financial Services Commission approved Kakao Corp.'s application to hold a 34% stake in internet-only bank KakaoBank of Korea Corp. This makes the mobile platform operator the largest shareholder of KakaoBank.

* Web.com Group Inc. has agreed to acquire Dreamscape Networks Ltd., a provider of online services in Australia and Southeast Asia, for 27 Australian cents per share in cash.

* Tencent Holdings Ltd. increased its shareholding in Weimob Inc., a Shanghai-based startup that provides businesses with cloud-based commerce and marketing solutions, Bloomberg News reported. Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte. Ltd. and U.S. asset manager BlackRock Inc. also increased their stakes in Weimob via a share sale, which reportedly netted US$180 million.

* Mercari Inc. has agreed to acquire a 61.6% stake in Japanese professional football club Kashima Antlers Football Club Co. Ltd. from Nippon Steel Corp. for about ¥1.6 billion. The deal has been approved by the Japanese Football Association. Nippon Steel will continue to own 11% of the club following the completion of the deal.

* EQT Mid Market Asia III, which is owned by Sweden-based EQT Partners AB, has agreed to acquire a majority stake in Nexon Asia Pacific Pty. Ltd., a cloud and managed service provider in Australia, for an undisclosed sum. The transaction will see Nexon co-founder and CEO Barry Assaf remaining a significant shareholder, while Nexon's existing management team will continue to lead the company.

* Kakao Mobility has agreed to acquire taxi corporation Jinhwa Taxi for an undisclosed amount, Money Today reported. A source said the company aims to conduct a small pilot test to see what impact can be generated when information and platform technologies are directly applied to the taxi business.

MEDIA

* Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. will sell up to an 11% stake in the company to Invesco Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund, a U.S.-based investment company that already owns a 7.7% stake in Zee. The transaction means Zee has rejected a nonbinding offer from a consortium led by Comcast Corp. to acquire a 51% stake in Zee. Previously, Zee had revealed that it received one binding offer for the purchase of a stake in the company and is expecting an additional offer in the next few days.

* Dentsu Aegis Network Ltd., a subsidiary of Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Inc., acquired a majority stake in India-based data and analytics company Ugam Solutions Pvt. Ltd. The deal will see Ugam joining Merkle, a global performance marketing agency brand of Dentsu Aegis.

* Singaporean entertainment company Spackman Entertainment Group Ltd. has agreed to acquire South Korean film production company, Simplex Films. Accordingly, Spackman will purchase 165,000,000 newly issued ordinary shares of Simplex at S$0.02 per share.

* Video streaming player AfreecaTV Co. Ltd. acquired NHN Corp.'s podcast platform PODTY to target the audio content market, Money Today reported. The company is in talks with NHN to finalize the details of post-acquisition operation.

* The Overseas Investment Office of New Zealand has approved the merger of QMS Media Ltd.'s out-of-home, digital media and production business in New Zealand with Mediaworks Holdings Ltd. Deal completion is expected to occur in the next four to six weeks, according to a June 30 regulatory filing. QMS expects to receive a capital return of approximately A$35 million and have a 40% shareholding in the merged entity.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

* Xiaomi Corp. acquired a 6% stake in Chinese chip designer VeriSilicon Holdings Co. Ltd. in a sign that it is resuming its pursuit of semiconductors as a core innovation strategy, according to Reuters. Xiaomi confirmed the investment, which took place June, according to a filing to the China Securities Regulatory Commission published online July 11. Both companies did not disclose financial details, the report said.

* Spirit Telecom Ltd. has agreed to buy Phoenix Austec Group Pty. Ltd. for an up-front consideration of A$1.6 million. The amount includes a cash payment of A$1.3 million, with the remaining amount paid in scrip at 24 cents. Phoenix Austec provides small businesses with an outsourced managed IT service, including hosted firewall, IT security and consulting and cloud-based support services.

* Thailand-based Jasmine International Public Co. Ltd. is considering selling its 3BB broadband internet service, Droidsans reported. The top three contenders for the business are reportedly Advanced Info Service PCL, Total Access Communication PCL and KT Corp. However, Total Access Communication has denied having any interest in taking over the 3BB broadband internet business of Jasmine International, according to The Bangkok Insight. The Thai telecom operator said it would rather focus on wireless communication.

* LINE Corp., a messaging app in Thailand, is merging its Line@ and Line Official Account businesses, Krungthep Turakij reported. The company is also revamping its pricing structures, which is expected to affect small and medium enterprises the most.

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