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China’s Tencent Surpasses Facebook In Value

November 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Tencent Holdings Ltd has had an impressive week – becoming the first Chinese firm to be worth more than $500 billion and surpassing Facebook to be the world’s fifth-most valuable company.

Earnings for China’s biggest social network and gaming firm have surged on the popularity of its smartphone games led by titles such as Honour of Kings – a fantasy role-playing game, which has as many active players as the population of Germany.

 Also driving earnings has been its messaging-to-payment super app WeChat which has amassed 980 million monthly active users, with 38 billion messages sent daily, while its Youtube equivalent, Tencent Video, has become the video streaming service with the largest paying subscriber base in China.

That success has helped Tencent’s stock more than double this year, making it Asia’s most valuable company worth $522 billion on Tuesday and easily outpacing a 36 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Led by Chinese billionaire Pony Ma, Tencent this month reported a better-than-expected 69 percent rise in third-quarter net profit.

“Tencent’s high growth, as demonstrated by its quarterly results, has supported the rally in its shares,” said Steven Leung, a sales director at UOB Kay Hian.

“Since the company has been able to deliver on its earnings, the stock is still worth holding onto despite its current high level.”

In addition to robust earnings, Tencent has also burnished its luster after some units and affiliates have made some eye-catching market debuts.

An executive recently also told Reuters the company is close to making Malaysia the first foreign country to roll out its WeChat ecosystem, pitting it against Alibaba as they scramble for new growth opportunities outside China.

The ITC To Investigate Apple

November 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The United States International Trade Commission today announced that it has launched an investigation into allegations that Apple infringed on patents owned by Aqua Connect.

Aqua Connect and its subsidiary Strategic Technology partners filed complaints against Apple with the United States International Trade Commission and the District Court for the Central District of California accusing Macs, iOS devices, and Apple TVs of infringing on two of its patents.

The two patents in question include U.S. Patent RE46,386, “Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived Computer System Environment” and U.S. Patent 8,924,502, “System, Method and Computer Program Product for Updating a User Session in a Mach-derived System Environment.”

According to Aqua Connect, the patents relate to screen sharing, remote desktop, and terminal server technology. Aqua Connect says that it built the first remote desktop solution for the Mac in 2008, which Apple later built into its iOS and macOS products in the form of AirPlay and other functionality without permission.

Ronnie Exley, CEO of Aqua Connect said his outfit invented and built the first fully functional remote desktop and terminal server solution for Mac in 2008.

“Initially, the product had Apple’s full support. But years later, Apple built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to use our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems.”

Aqua Connect’s complaint with the International Trade Commission asks for an exclusion order and a cease and desist order that would bar Apple from importing its products into the United States.

The ITC says it will be investigating “certain Apple Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs.”

Courtesy-Fud

Qualcomm Rejects Broadcom’s Takeover Bid

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm Inc officially rejected rival Broadcom Ltd’s $103-billion takeover bid, saying the offer undervalued the company and would face regulatory hurdles.

Shares of Qualcomm were up 1.8 percent at $65.74 in early afternoon trading, while those of Broadcom were down 0.4 percent at $263.95.

Broadcom said it would seek to engage with Qualcomm’s board and management, adding that it had received positive feedback from key customers and stockholders.

 “We continue to believe our proposal represents the most attractive, value-enhancing alternative available to Qualcomm stockholders and we are encouraged by their reaction,” the company said.

Both companies count Apple among their top customers. Analysts have said a deal between the two would help Qualcomm settle its legal battle with the iPhone maker as Broadcom has a closer relationship with Apple.

Analysts said Broadcom can now raise its bid, go for a proxy fight or launch a hostile exchange offer.

“Qualcomm’s ‘thanks, but no thanks’ response to the unsolicited bid by Broadcom isn’t surprising and we would be surprised if at this point, Broadcom didn’t move forward with a proxy fight,” Loop Capital analyst Betsy Van Hees told Reuters.

SoftBank Acquires $10B Stake In Uber

November 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Uber’s board of directors has agreed to a deal that will allow SoftBank to make a multibillion-dollar investment in the ride-hailing startup.

The agreement resolves a legal battle between Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick and Benchmark Capital, one of the startup’s early investors, Reuters reported Sunday. Benchmark Capital, which owns about 13 percent of Uber, sued Kalanick in August, alleging that Kalanick misled Uber’s stockholders to gain control of three board seats.

“We’ve entered into an agreement with a consortium led by SoftBank and Dragoneer on a potential investment,” an Uber representative said in a statement. “We believe this agreement is a strong vote of confidence in Uber’s long-term potential. Upon closing, it will help fuel our investments in technology and our continued expansion at home and abroad, while strengthening our corporate governance.”

The agreement comes a month after Uber’s board voted to eliminate its super-voting structure, in which early shareholders had 10 times the voting power, to a one vote per share model, according to a source familiar with the vote. The board also voted to expand the number of board members to 17, adding six seats to dilute additions made by Kalanick in September.

At the same time, Uber’s board approved the sale of $10 billion of stock to SoftBank, a Japanese internet giant. SoftBank plans to acquire a 14 percent to 20 percent stake in the world’s most valuable privately-held tech startup, board member Arianna Huffington said in October.

The vote came amid a tumultuous year for the ride-hailing startup, which has been rocked by a slew of scandals, including sexual harassment allegations that resulted in more than 20 Uber employees being fired. The company has been caught using a secretive tool called Greyball to avoid local authorities. The company is also defending itself against a trade-secret theft lawsuit from Waymo, a self-driving car business run by Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

 

Tencent Takes Stake In Snapchat Company

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Snapchat got a vote of confidence from a new investor.

Chinese tech behemoth, Tencent, has taken a 12 percent stake in Snap, the company that gave us disappearing messages first, reported the Financial Times. Tencent sits among China’s three biggest tech companies along with Baidu and Alibaba, collectively known as BAT.

The news, revealed in Snap’s quarterly filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, comes after the company posted disappointing results of its growth this quarter.

It’s not Tencent’s first investment in a US company, having bought a five percent stake in Tesla in March. Tencent, the creator of popular Chinese mobile game, Honour of Kings, also owns Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends.

It’s no secret that Tencent has been making efforts to expand to the US. Also the owner of Chinese messaging platform, WeChat, Tencent brought its digital payment service, WeChat Pay, to the country earlier this year.

In the filing, Snap said it has “long been inspired by the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of Tencent.”

Tencent president Martin Lau said the company “looks forward to sharing ideas and experiences.” This could come in the form of a collaboration between both companies on mobile games and news feed, according to a statement obtained by Reuters.

Broadcomm, Qualcomm Merger May Face Resistance In China

November 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The proposed mega-merger between chipmaker Broadcom Ltd and U.S. rival Qualcomm Inc is likely to face stern scrutiny from China, antitrust lawyers say, amid a strategic push by Beijing into semiconductors.

Broadcom made an unsolicited $103 billion bid for Qualcomm on Monday, aimed at creating a $200-billion-plus behemoth that could reshape the industry at the heart of mobile phone hardware.

But Chinese regulatory approval could be a hold-up. Beijing and Washington have sparred over technology deals, including in chips, with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) knocking back a number of takeovers involving Chinese firms this year.

The thorny topic is likely to come up when U.S. President Donald Trump visits China this week – with Qualcomm executives in tow.

The merger would face a lengthy review from the anti-monopoly unit of China’s commerce ministry, due to strategic concerns, the huge size of the deal and because Qualcomm has come under fire before in the country over competition concerns.

“This is a critical industry for China and Qualcomm has been fined by the Ministry of Commerce (Mofcom) before so it’s on its radar,” said Wendy Yan, Shanghai-based partner at law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Qualcomm agreed to pay a record fine of $975 million in China in 2015 to end a probe into anti-competitive practices related to so-called “double dipping” by billing Chinese customers patent royalty fees in addition to charging for the chips.

China is making a major push to develop its own semiconductor industry under local champions such as Tsinghua Unigroup and Fujian Grand Chip Investment to help cut reliance on global operators including Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Intel Corp.

Sprint Signs Partnership Deal With Altice For Mobile Service

November 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

U.S. cable operator Altice USA will offer mobile service on wireless carrier Sprint Corp’s network under a new multi-year agreement, becoming the latest firm to enter the wireless market in a bid to retain customers.

The companies announced the agreement a day after Sprint and T-Mobile US Inc ended merger talks.

Under the terms of the agreement, Altice, the fourth-largest U.S. cable operator, will use Sprint’s network to provide voice and data services in the United States. It gave no timeline on when it will introduce such services.

The deal will allow Sprint to use Altice’s cable infrastructure to transmit cellular data and develop a next-generation network, or 5G.

Sprint and T-Mobile on Saturday called off merger talks to create a bigger U.S. wireless company to rival market leaders. That has left Sprint, the No. 4 U.S. wireless carrier, to engineer a turnaround on its own.

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, Sprint’s majority owner, said in a separate announcement on Sunday that it intended to increase its stake in Sprint but that it would keep ownership of outstanding common stock under 85 percent, a move that avoids triggering a tender offer for the remaining shares. SoftBank currently owns roughly 82 percent of Sprint.

U.S. cable companies have begun venturing into the wireless market as a way to bundle more services to reduce churn, or customer defections, at a time when more consumers are canceling cable subscriptions.

Comcast Corp started selling wireless service this year on Verizon Communications Inc’s network, and Charter Communications Inc plans to launch service next year.

Sprint, T-Mobile Ends Merger Talks

November 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint Corp and T-Mobile US Inc announced they have discontinued merger talks to create a stronger U.S. wireless to rival to market leaders, leaving No. 4 provider Sprint to engineer a turnaround on its own.

The announcement marks the latest failed attempt to combine the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers, as Sprint parent SoftBank Group Corp, and T-Mobile parent, Deutsche Telekom AG, show an unwillingness to part with their prized U.S. telecom assets.

The companies’ unusual step of making a joint announcement on the canceled negotiations could indicate they still recognize the merits of a merger and could keep the door open for potential future talks.

The companies said they ended talks because they “were unable to find mutually agreeable terms.”

A combined company would have had more than 130 million U.S. subscribers, behind Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

John Legere, president and chief executive of T-Mobile, said in the statement that the prospect of combining with Sprint was compelling but “we have been clear all along that a deal with anyone will have to result in superior long-term value for T-Mobile’s shareholders compared to our outstanding stand-alone performance and track record.”

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said that even though the companies could not reach a deal, “we certainly recognize the benefits of scale through a potential combination.”

Claure said Sprint has agreed it is best to move forward on its own with “significant assets, including our rich spectrum holdings, and are accelerating significant investments in our network to ensure our continued growth.”

Failure to clinch an agreement leaves SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, a dealmaker who raised close to $100 billion for his Vision Fund to invest in technology companies, with the need to find another option for Sprint.

Sprint is in the middle of a turnaround plan and has sought to strengthen its balance sheet by cutting costs. But industry analysts have expressed concern that the company, weighed down with total debt of $38 billion, has few financial options. Even though its customer base has expanded under CEO Claure, growth has been driven by heavy discounting.

Claure said in August that while Sprint could sustain itself, cost savings from a transaction were significantly better than remaining a standalone entity.

Analysts said an end to talks to T-Mobile would leave debt-laden Sprint without the scale needed to invest in its network and to compete in a saturated market.

Sprint has sought to strengthen its balance sheet by cutting costs. To shore up cash over the past two years, the company has already mortgaged a portion of its airwaves and equipment through sale leaseback deals.

Mark Stodden, telecom analyst at Moody‘s, said “To really take the kind of next step from a business that has been stabilized to a business that has been growing is going to require a new more intense investment phase.”

T-Mobile is a better position than Sprint as a standalone company, analysts have said. German majority owner Deutsche Telekom, which owns roughly 65 percent of the U.S. carrier, was the first major carrier to eliminate two-year contracts, a shift quickly embraced by consumers and copied by competitors. The company has also badgered rivals with its unlimited data plans.

Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges said in a statement on Saturday that T-Mobile has a “strong basis for growth in the upcoming years.”

T-Mobile, Sprint Merger Appears To Be In Trouble

October 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

The merger between T-Mobile and Sprint may not happen after all.

Sprint’s parent company, Japanese carrier SoftBank, plans to break off merger talks, according to a new report from Nikkei. The publication cited a dispute over ownership of the combined entity.

SoftBank may approach T-Mobile’s parent company, German carrier Deutsche Telekom, as early as Tuesday to end the deal, Nikkei said. It added that the two companies had reached a broad pact but haven’t agreed who would control the combined company. Deutsche Telekom reportedly had insisted on a controlling stake, something SoftBank initially was open to but then reconsidered, Nikkei said.

A possible merger between T-Mobile and Sprint has been rumored for years but has failed to materialize. The two companies lag behind their bigger rivals, Verizon Wireless and AT&T, when it comes to the US market. Combining would give them an advantage, but critics fear having three players would reduce competition and hurt consumers.

Deutsche Telekom said it doesn’t comment on rumors and speculation. Sprint, T-Mobile and SoftBank didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Will Microsoft Put The Surface To Rest

October 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft will drop its Surface laptop line-up by 2019, if remarks made by Canalys CEO Steve Brazier are to be believed.

As reported by The Register, which attended the Canalys Channels Forum, Brazier said that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is a “software guy, a cloud guy”, hinting that the firm’s bork-ridden Surface laptops and tablets are likely to go the same way as the firm’s all-but-defunct smartphone division.

“The Surface performance is choppy; there are good quarters and bad quarters, overall they are not making money. It doesn’t make sense for them to be in this business,” Brazier remarked.

“When the capital expenditure challenge that Satya Nadella has taken Microsoft down becomes visible to Wall Street, everyone will ask him ‘Why have you gone to a low margin business?'”

Brazier has a point. Last quarter, Microsoft’s Surface revenue was down 2 per cent, and dropped a massive 26 per cent year-on-year in the previous quarter. The devices have been plagued with issues, too, which Microsoft has blamed on Intel’s Skylake chips.

Passing the buck didn’t stop Consumer Reports yanking its “recommended” label from the Surface line-up, though. It slammed the hardware “significantly less reliable than most other brands” after finding that one in four Surface owners were being plagued with  “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.”

Brazier’s predictions were backed up by Gianfranco Lanci, corporate VP and COO of Lenovo, who joined the Canalys CEO on stage.

“Microsoft is making a lot of money on cloud, making a lot of money on Windows and Office, but losing a lot of money on devices,” he said.

“Frankly speaking, it is difficult to see why they should keep losing money. For them it is a very difficult exercise to run hardware products business, they need to be careful about every single detail as the margin on this is so thin.”

Courtesy-Fud

Angry Birds Maker Rovio Looks At Acquiring Rivals

October 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Rovio, the owner of hit mobile game “Angry Birds,” will look to acquire other players in the gaming industry following its listing on Friday, its main owner Kaj Hed said.

The Finnish company’s shares got off to a flying start on their stock market debut, trading up as much as 7 percent from their initial public offering price (IPO) of 11.50 euros.

Hed, who cut his stake from 69 percent to 37 percent in the IPO, said Rovio now had more muscle to do deals in a gaming sector he believes is ripe for consolidation.

“We have a clear will to be a consolidator, and we are in a very good position to do that,” he told Reuters at Rovio’s headquarters by the Baltic Sea.

“Many good (gaming industry) players face the question of whether they should go public, or whether they should consolidate. Going public is expensive and requires hard work, so finding a partner could be easier.”

Analysts have long urged Rovio to do more to reduce its reliance on the “Angry Birds” franchise.

Hed, the uncle of Rovio’s co-founder Niklas Hed, said he remained strongly committed to the company.

“The reason that I sold shares was to give the company the liquidity, because that is very important. My intention is to remain as a long-term investor in the company.”

Rovio saw rapid growth after the 2009 launch of the original “Angry Birds” game, but it plunged to an operating loss and cut a third of its staff in 2015 due to a pick up in competition and a shift among consumers to freely available games.

But the 2016 release of 3D Hollywood movie “Angry Birds”, together with new games, have revived the brand and helped sales recover.

In the first half of this year, Rovio’s sales almost doubled from a year earlier to 153 million euros, while core profit increased to 42 million euros from 11 million.

Rovio’s market valuation of around 950 million euros ($1.12 billion), looks high based on Rovio’s historical profit, said Atte Riikola, an analyst at research firm Inderes.

Roku Gears Up For IPO, Sets Shares At $14

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Roku, the video streaming platform, set its initial public offering price at $14 per share, giving the company a value of $1.3 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The maker of set-top streaming boxes and software priced at the high end of its expected range, raising roughly $219 million Wednesday night ahead of its debut on the Nasdaq stock market Thursday, The Journal reported.

Roku may not be as recognizable a name as some of its streaming box competitors, which are all monolithic tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon. But Roku is the most pervasive box in US households and tends to be one of the main ways people stream long-form TV from services like Netflix and Hulu, according to research firm Nielsen.

Roku, which announced its intention to go public earlier this month, said in June it has 15 million monthly active accounts, a 61 percent increase in the previous 12 months. The company had $400 million in revenue in 2016.

BlackBerry’s Focus On Software Pays Off

September 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

BlackBerry Ltd reported better-than-expected quarterly results and increased its fiscal-year revenue forecast after sales at its closely monitored software business hit a record, sending its shares up more than 7 percent in Thursday premarket trading.

The Canadian company, which last year stopped manufacturing the iconic BlackBerry smartphone to focus on software, reported a profit of 5 cents a share before special items for the second quarter ended on Aug. 31, compared with break-even per share a year earlier.

Revenue fell to $249 million from $352 million a year earlier but rose slightly from $244 million in the prior quarter.

Analysts had on average expected BlackBerry to break even on revenue of $220 million, excluding items, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income for the quarter was $19 million, or 4 cents per share.

Excluding restructuring costs and other items, BlackBerry said it expected fiscal-year revenue of $920 million to $950 million and positive earnings per share. It also forecast positive free cash flow.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company is aiming to notch 10 percent to 15 percent software revenue growth for its fiscal year, which runs until the end of February.

BlackBerry said software and services revenue reached a record $196 million in the quarter, more than the estimates of $174 million from RBC analyst Paul Trieber and $176.2 million from Macquarie’s Gus Papageorgiou.

Vimeo Acquires Livestream

September 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Video-sharing website Vimeo announced intentions to acquire live video-streaming service Livestream and launch a new streaming service called Vimeo Live.

IAC-owned Vimeo didn’t disclose financial details for the acquisition of the Brooklyn-based company, which says it serves up live videos to 50 million viewers from customers such as Spotify and Dow Jones. Once the deal closes, Livestream’s technology will be integrated with Vimeo, allowing users to capture and stream live events.

“With the launch of Vimeo Live and the addition of Livestream’s impressive team and innovative product suite, we can empower a diverse range of creators to produce beautiful live experiences with professionalism and ease,” Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud said in a statement.

The acquisition makes possible a dramatic expansion for Vimeo, often known as a highbrow YouTube.

Like Google’s video site, Vimeo lets people upload clips. But its early dedication to high picture quality and its ban on video ads meant it was more likely to host film-festival fodder than cat clips.

The new direction comes on the heels of Vimeo shelving plans to launch its own video subscription site with original content. The site said in November it would help its creator community develop original content, and supplement it with licensed programming. Vimeo said in June it had abandoned those plans.

T-Mobile, Sprint Edge Closer To Merger

September 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

 T-Mobile US Inc is has moved closer to agreeing on tentative terms to merge with Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Friday, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers.

The transaction would significantly consolidate the U.S. telecommunications market and represent the first transformative U.S. merger with significant antitrust risk to be agreed since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump in January.

The progress toward a deal also indicates that T-Mobile and Sprint believe that the U.S. antitrust enforcement environment has become more favorable since the companies abandoned their previous effort to combine in 2014 amid regulatory concerns.

The latest development in the talks between T-Mobile and Sprint comes as the telecommunications sector seeks ways to tackle investments in 5G technology that will greatly enhance wireless data transfer speeds.

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, which controls Sprint, and other Sprint shareholders will own 40 to 50 percent of the combined company, while T-Mobile majority owner Deutsche Telekom and the rest of T-Mobile shareholders will own the majority, the sources said.

SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son met with Trump late last year and said in February that the Japanese firm should benefit from Trump’s promised deregulation.

Once terms are finalized, due diligence by the two companies will follow and a deal is expected by the end of October, though talks may still fall through, the sources said.

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