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China’s tech behemoths are increasingly turning to Southeast Asia in the face of growing hostility from the US and other major markets, setting up the region — with its 650 million increasingly smartphone-savvy population — as a key battleground. (Image: Bloomberg)
Tencent Holdings Ltd has picked Singapore as its beachhead for Asia, joining rivals Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and ByteDance Ltd in the race to build up their presence closer to home after setbacks in the US and India.
Management at China’s largest social media and gaming company had been discussing Singapore as a potential regional hub and geopolitical tensions accelerated its plans, according to people familiar with the matter. Tencent has been considering the shift of some business operations — including international game publishing — out of its home country, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
China’s tech behemoths are increasingly turning to Southeast Asia in the face of growing hostility from the US and other major markets, setting up the region — with its 650 million increasingly smartphone-savvy population — as a key battleground. President Donald Trump has banned US entities from dealing with Tencent’s super-app WeChat from Sept 20, while the company’s hit games PUBG Mobile and Arena of Valor are banned in India.
Tencent said in a statement that it will open a new office in Singapore to “support our growing business in Southeast Asia and beyond,” in addition to current ones in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. It’s recruiting for various positions including tech and business development, the company said, without offering details. Tencent currently has dozens of job openings in Singapore for businesses including cross-border commerce, cloud computing and esports, according to its hiring site.
Singapore in particular is attracting attention as a regional base for both Western and Chinese corporations because of its advanced financial and legal system, and as Beijing tightens its grip on the city of Hong Kong. The city-state of under 6 million people has been careful not to take sides in the standoff between the world’s two superpowers, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledging last year to remain “good friends” with both the US and China.
TikTok’s owner ByteDance is planning to spend several billion dollars and add hundreds of jobs in Singapore over the next three years, Bloomberg News reported last week. It has also applied for a digital-bank license from the city-state’s central bank, alongside Alibaba-backed Ant Group and Tencent-backed Sea Ltd.
Alibaba has splashed out $4 billion to take full control of Singapore-based regional e-commerce platform Lazada, which aims to serve 300 million people in Southeast Asia by 2030. In May, Alibaba struck a deal to buy half of Singapore’s AXA Tower, valued at around $1.2 billion, underscoring its ambition to expand in the market. China’s largest corporation is in talks to invest $3 billion into Singapore-based ride-hailing giant Grab Holdings Inc, Bloomberg News reported on Monday.
Tencent thus far has had a smaller footprint in Southeast Asia. The online entertainment juggernaut is largely run from its Shenzhen headquarters, though some global products in areas like music and video streaming operate in Hong Kong, where President Martin Lau is based. The company says it stores some user data in Singapore.
In recent years, Tencent has ratcheted up efforts to expand globally as the Chinese market saturates and stricter regulatory controls on gaming slow down domestic growth. Tapping into popular franchises from investees like Activision Blizzard Inc and turning them into mobile hits marked its biggest global successes so far. In 2019’s final quarter, international titles like Call of Duty Mobile and PUBG Mobile accounted for 23% of Tencent’s $17 billion gaming empire, according to the company.
In spite of Tencent’s best efforts, however, geopolitical frictions are still likely to hinder its international expansion push. South Korea’s PUBG Corp has withdrawn the Chinese company’s publishing rights for PUBG Mobile in India, after the country banned the popular mobile shooter alongside more than a hundred Chinese-made apps amid border clashes. Trump’s Aug 6 executive order, meanwhile, prohibits unspecified transactions with WeChat and its operator Tencent, and the Commerce Department has yet to determine whether gaming activities will be banned by Sept 20.
for about $9 billion, in a move that would reorient the semiconductor giant away from an area of historical importance that has become increasingly challenged.
The Intel unit makes NAND flash memory products primarily used in devices such as hard drives, thumb drives and cameras. The U.S. chip maker has been weighing getting out of the business for some time, driven by sagging prices for flash memory.
Under the deal reported earlier Monday by The Wall Street Journal, SK Hynix plans to buy most of Intel’s memory business, including the related memory manufacturing operations in Dalian, China, the companies said in a statement. Intel will keep its Optane line of memory products, an advanced type of storage used heavily in data centers.
The operations being acquired by SK Hynix generated about $2.8 billion in sales in the first six months of this year, the companies said. That represents the lion’s share of Intel’s overall memory sales, which totaled around $3 billion during that period.
The deal would make SK Hynix one of the world’s largest NAND memory makers. SK Hynix and Intel’s combined market share was more than 20% in the second quarter, according to Taiwan-based research firm TrendForce, trailing only South Korean giant Samsung Electronics Co., which held over 30% of the market.
While Intel is best known for making the central processing units at the heart of personal computers, the company has deep roots in the memory business. It started as a memory manufacturer in the late 1960s before stiff competition from Japan’s burgeoning electronics industry in the 1980s led the company to change course.
The market for memory chips slumped in 2018 amid an oversupply of the devices, though it began to recover late last year. Analysts expect the market for NAND devices to remain strong in the coming years amid a surge in data storage.
Nonetheless, Intel Chief Executive Bob Swan said in April that the company had to generate more attractive returns from the NAND business and suggested it could enter into a “partnership” to make that happen.
George Davis, the California-based company’s chief financial officer, said in March that while the flash memory business showed promise, the company hadn’t been able to generate the profits it wanted.
Intel said it would invest the deal’s proceeds in building its presence in fast-growing areas like artificial intelligence and 5G networking. “This transaction will allow us to further prioritize our investments in differentiated technology where we can play a bigger role in the success of our customers and deliver attractive returns to our stockholders,” Mr. Swan said in a statement.
Intel already pared down its involvement in memory manufacturing in January when
bought out Intel’s share in a joint venture for about $1.5 billion. That venture was focused on an advanced memory technology called 3D XPoint.
The companies aim to get regulatory approvals for the transaction late next year, which would trigger a $7 billion payment. The remaining $2 billion would follow at final closing expected in 2025. Intel is to continue to make memory at the plant until the final closing.
Intel, which has a market value of roughly $230 billion, has been under increasing pressure as smaller rivals gain market share. Its stock is down about 10% this year, compared with a roughly 30% rise in the PHLX Semiconductor index. The shares dropped more than 15% when Intel in July indicated that second-half results would be weaker than expected and revealed further delays in the rollout of its superfast seven-nanometer chip technology, which underlies future generations of central processing units.
While Intel has struggled to move into mass production of its most advanced chips, rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s market share in personal computer CPUs climbed above 17% in the first quarter, more than doubling from five years earlier, according to Mercury Research. Intel holds almost all of the remaining market share.
Intel is set to report its third-quarter earnings Thursday afternoon.
The market for memory chips has been shaken by U.S. efforts to curb the rise of China’s tech industry and restrict exports to Chinese firms such as Huawei Technologies Co., the country’s leading telecom equipment maker. Japanese memory-chip maker Kioxia Holdings Corp., owned by a consortium led by private-equity firm Bain Capital, last month delayed one of this year’s most anticipated public offerings because of the situation.
Intel’s advanced flash memory, referred to as 3D NAND because it has multiple layers of memory cells stacked on top of each other, has been produced for the past five years in Dalian, a port city on the Liaodong Peninsula just west of the Korean Peninsula.
That factory is Intel’s only major chip-manufacturing site in China and its sale to SK Hynix would mark a serious reduction of the company’s presence there.
The U.S. has been ratcheting up pressure on Chinese chip-making recently, including by requiring companies to obtain licenses before exporting some technology to China’s most advanced chip maker,
Consolidation has swept through the semiconductor sector as industry players seek scale and expand their product portfolios to support the increasing number of everyday items that are connected to the internet.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. The two parties are discussing a deal that could come together this week or next, assuming talks don’t fall apart, according to people familiar with the matter.
Some companies are looking to slim down and narrow their focus.
last year explored a sale of its radio-frequency, or RF unit, a segment of its wireless-chip business that makes filters used in cellphones to clarify signals. It later decided against selling it.
BofA Securities served as financial adviser to Intel; Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and Linklaters LLP, while Bae, Kim & Lee LLC served as its legal counsel. Citi served as financial adviser to SK Hynix and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and K&C and Fangda Partners served as its legal counsel.
Electronics and furniture retailer Courts has been fined $9,000 for failing to secure customers’ personal details such as names, mobile numbers and addresses, the second time in two years that it has been found to have breached data protection laws.
According to a written decision by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) published last Friday, a Courts membership programme marketing e-mail sent out on Aug 31 last year exposed the personal data of 76,844 customers to the risk of unauthorised access and modification.
The e-mail contained a link directing customers to the membership portal, where they were supposed to log in and provide their mobile numbers as a form of identification.
But links in previous such e-mails did not require members to log in, and Courts’ default website settings failed to take this change into account. This created an issue where if a member clicked on the link to log in and did not log out within 60 minutes, all other members who clicked on the link within the next 60 minutes would be automatically directed to his account.
Financial information was not stored in the system, but members’ names, dates of birth, mobile numbers and addresses were at risk of being accessed and modified owing to the breach.
Courts was notified of the breach by a member on the same day, and fixed the issue some 16 hours after the e-mail was sent out, during which time 128 members clicked on the link. The company notified all 128 via e-mail, and also implemented a password verification process in January this year for any changes made to members’ account information.
“Courts is fully committed to the protection of customers’ personal data. We are regretful that this incident occurred and acted swiftly to contain it within 16 hours, with minimum impact to our customers,” a Courts spokesman said yesterday.
“We proactively reported the incident to the PDPC and cooperated fully during its investigation. We accept its decision and, following the incident, we have reviewed our (standard operating procedures) and continue to conduct penetration testing on our website at regular intervals.”
PDPC deputy commissioner Yeong Zee Kin said Courts had failed to conduct adequate testing before implementation of the new link, noting that there was only one employee in charge of creating and testing the link.
“The employee conducted a limited test of sending the (e-mail) containing the new (link) to himself… this limited test was clearly inadequate,” Mr Yeong said.
“Pre-launch testing of processes or systems needs to mimic expected real world usage… In the present case, the organisation intended to send the (e-mail) to a very large number of members.”
Mr Yeong also noted that this was the second time Courts has been found guilty of a data breach, but added that the financial penalty was reduced after consideration of the company’s financial circumstances due to the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.