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Xiaomi exec to lead VR at Facebook; Alibaba affiliate buying MoneyGram

TOP NEWS

* Hugo Barra, who is stepping down as global vice president of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. earlier this week, is joining Facebook Inc. to lead its virtual reality efforts, including its Oculus VR, Inc. team, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. Barra will serve as vice president of virtual reality at the social networking giant.

* MoneyGram International Inc. will merge with China's Ant Financial Services Group, parent of mobile payment platform AliPay Internet Technology Co. Ltd., in a transaction valued at around US$880 million. Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., will assume or refinance MoneyGram's outstanding debt. If the planned sale is terminated, MoneyGram would receive a US$60 million fee, according to a regulatory filing. But if MoneyGram causes the deal to fall through, it would owe Alipay (UK) Ltd. US$30 million.

* Vodafone India awarded a 4G deployment and expansion contract to Nokia Corp. worth up to €500 million, The Economic Times (India) reports, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The deal will reportedly cover 10 of India's 22 telecom zones.

PAN-ASIAN NEWS

* Facebook will start testing ads in its Messenger app in Australia and Thailand, TechCrunch.com reports. The test will allow businesses to place an ad on the Messenger home screen.

* Oracle Corp. will open seven new centers around the world for its Startup Cloud Accelerator program. Hubs will be launched in Singapore, the U.K., France, Brazil and Israel, in addition to two locations in India.

JAPAN

* Japanese advertising giant Dentsu Inc. announced it acquired a 51% stake in Indonesia's largest advertising agency, Dwi Sapta Group. The deal gives Dentsu an option to make Dwi Sapta a fully owned subsidiary. The acquisition was made through Dentsu's global business headquarters, Dentsu Aegis Network.

* Toshiba Corp. is seeking to retain control of its memory chip business, aiming to sell less than 20% of the unit to be created in a spinoff of the operations, according to The Nikkei. U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc. has emerged as a potential investor. Toshiba needs emergency funds as it faces massive losses in its U.S. nuclear business.

* Nikkei Inc.'s Singapore subsidiary, Nikkei Group Asia, is teaming up with Indian startup NewsRise Financial Research and Information Services to offer Southeast Asian stock market news in English, according to The Nikkei. The service will launch in Malaysia and roll out later in Singapore and other countries.

* Sony Music Entertainment Inc. president and CEO Edgar Berger is leaving the company to seek new business opportunities, Billboard reports, citing an internal memo. No replacement has been named. Sony Music is a unit of Sony Corp.

SOUTH KOREA

* South Korean internet giant Naver reported 2016 revenue and operating profit of 4.2 trillion South Korean won and 1.1 trillion won, respectively. The driver behind the growth was the ad business, which grew by 27.8% year-over-year. Mobile ads contributed 56% to the revenue, surpassing the performance of PC ads.

* Walt Disney Co. will distribute its first Korean movie, "Yes, Family," Chosun Ilbo reports. The family-themed film was reportedly selected because the story suits Disney's audience. It will be released Feb. 15.

* Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. extended the Galaxy Note 7 exchange deadline from late January to late February, Yonhap News Agency reports. Currently, 96% of the devices distributed in South Korea have been exchanged. The deadline is unlikely to be extended after February, as the Samsung Group unit reportedly needs to move on to marketing the Galaxy S8.

* South Korean telco KT Corp. will reappoint current CEO Hwang Chang-gyu for another term, for achieving 1 trillion won in operating profit for two consecutive years, Chosun Biz reports. It was previously rumored that he might fail to keep his post amid suspicions of KT's involvement in the country's presidential corruption scandal.

CHINA, HONG KONG AND TAIWAN

* Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. was chosen by Vodafone Group Plc's Vodafone España S.A.U. to maintain its fiber network, Telecompaper reports, citing Expansion. The contract, which is under a five-year term, was for €200 million.

* Huawei was also tapped by VimpelCom's VimpelCom Russia, which works under the Beeline brand, for the research and testing of 5G technologies, Telecompaper reports. The companies plan to test LTE-Unlicensed technologies and LTE-Advanced functions during the first quarter of 2017.

* The National Copyright Administration of the People's Republic of China issued a notice prohibiting illegal broadcasts of China Central Television (CCTV)(CN)'s annual Spring Festival Gala variety show, calling it a popular and important cultural product. The administration added the show to a patent protection list and banned all forms of unauthorized transmission, including IPTV, OTT, blogs and microblogs.

* Horizons Ventures, the private investment arm of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, led a US$23 million series A funding found in U.S.-based Divergent 3D to develop its hardware-software platform in China, China Money Network reports. Automotive and aerospace engineering services provider Altran also participated in the round and became a strategic partner of Divergent 3D, which invented a 3D-printed car.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) confirmed that it plans to auction 380 MHz across four spectrum bands by 2020, the Bangkok Post reports. The regulator added that it will auction 180 MHz on the 2,600 MHz spectrum band this year to accommodate growing data demand driven by mobile broadband, video streaming and the Internet of Things.

* Meanwhile, Thai state-owned telco TOT will begin the process of auctioning 60 MHz on the 2,300 MHz spectrum band by issuing a terms of reference for the deal in early February, Prachachat reports. TOT said it hopes to name the winning bidder by the end of March, which will then hold rights to the bandwidth until 2025.

* Indonesian telco Smartfren is preparing to launch VoWiFi (voice over Wi-Fi) service, CNN Indonesia reports. VoWiFi will be available in the latest version of Andromax devices to be launched this year, and other devices manufactured by OEM that support Smartfren's network.

* In other Smartfren news, the company said that given its high number of CDMA users, it will not yet end that service on Java Island, Arena LTE reports. Meanwhile, Smartfren will focus on increasing the number of 4G users.

* Smart Communications, the mobile unit of Philippine telco giant PLDT Inc., will expand its network over the next three months to improve the coverage and quality of voice, text message and LTE services in metro Manila, The Philippine Star reports.

* Vietnam's Ministry of Information and Communications ordered three state-owned telcos to accelerate plans for equitization in response to an executive order signed by the prime minister, The Nation reports. In December 2016, Viet Nam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), Viet Nam Multimedia Corp. and MobiFone Telecommunications Corp. appeared on a list of 240 state-owned enterprises scheduled for equitization in 2017.

* The Mass Communication Organization of Thailand, a state-owned public broadcaster, will return 140 MHz on the 2.6 GHz spectrum band to the NBTC for reallocation, The Nation reports. MCOT reportedly requested compensation for the bandwidth, but a new law that could enable the NBTC to issue such payment is still in the draft stage.

* Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority is considering a proposal by local fiber network infrastructure company NetLink Trust to reduce one-time fiber installation fees for residences, Channel News Asia reports. The IMDA will make a final decision after receiving responses from the public consultation exercise that runs from Jan. 26 to Feb. 16.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* The Australian Communications and Media Authority announced tax cuts to satellite services in the 17.3 GHz to 51.4 GHz frequency range, iTWire reports. This comes amid industry concerns that the current taxes are higher than international standards.

* Australian telco Singtel Optus Pty. Ltd. has rolled out native Voice over WiFi, which will allow customers to make and receive voice calls, SMS and MMS through a Wi-Fi connection whenever there is limited mobile coverage. Samsung's Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge devices are the first phones to support Wi-Fi calling over the Optus network, with more devices expected to be included in the future.

* London-based Fashion Television International Ltd. announced the launch of its linear satellite channel in Australia and New Zealand, using the Optus D2 satellite. The channel will debut with the second season of the reality series "Design Genius."

INDIA AND SOUTH ASIA

* India's Bharti Airtel Ltd. plans to shift to Voice over LTE technology in its prime markets, Mint reports, citing comments by CEO Gopal Vittal. The telco is "future-proofing" its network in anticipation of VoLTE gaining relevance in major Indian cities in the next 12 to 18 months.

* Pakistani telco Mobilink, now called Jazz, appointed Faisal Sattar as head of business services. Propakistani reports. Faisal joins Jazz from Universal Service Fund, where he was CEO.

The Daily Dose will not appear Jan. 30 and 31 due to the Lunar New Year holiday in Hong Kong. The next Dose will be sent out Feb. 1. Please visit our website for the latest news updates, or check us out at www.twitter.com/SNLKagan.

FEATURED NEWS

Ant Financial deal good for MoneyGram shareholders, says analyst: It is not clear what the federal government will think of the proposed $880 million acquisition of MoneyGram by China-based Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. affiliate Ant Financial Services Group.

Data Dispatch: Universal debut could be top dog at box office despite scandal: "A Dog's Purpose" was supposed to be an easy debut win for Universal, but an animal-mistreatment scandal is weighing on its prospects.

Hires and Fires: US Media & Comm management moves through Jan. 25: Amazon, Microsoft, Sprint: S&P Global Market Intelligence presents a weekly rundown of executive changes in the media and communications industries.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Networks: Netflix lands 12 blockbusters in premium window: Films remain an important part of premium network schedules, but several output deals have moved to subscription video-on-demand platforms in recent years.

Joji Sakurai, Sunny Um, Emily Lai, Patrick Tibke and Ed Eduard 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.