|Bid||52,700.00 x 0|
|Ask||52,800.00 x 0|
|Day's Range||52,300.00 - 53,200.00|
|52 Week Range||42,300.00 - 62,800.00|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||0.92|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Earnings Date||Jul. 30, 2020|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||1,416.00 (2.67%)|
|Ex-Dividend Date||Mar. 30, 2020|
|1y Target Est||54,903.00|
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- China is nothing if not ambitious. Facing a coronavirus-battered economy, Beijing is speeding up an infrastructure build-out to stimulate growth, vowing to spend an estimated $1.4 trillion over five years on areas such as 5G, industrial automation and cybersecurity.This enthusiasm has propelled a fast and furious surge in stocks. The tech-heavy ChiNext Index is up 46% this year, and sports an eye-popping valuation of 35 times 2021 earnings. That’s above the Nasdaq Composite Index’s 27.5 times, which is already expensive and reason enough for the rally to fade.Investors are smart to play in fields where the fiscal dollars are. But it’s also a dangerous game. What’s recurring income and what counts as extraordinary items? Once we remove government subsidies, the valuations of China’s tech darlings become even airier. Helicopter money can come in many forms. First and foremost, Beijing is a large client. Even before the coronavirus, the government was the biggest buyer of IT security, accounting for 27% of total spending last year, according to IDC. Meanwhile, the latest policies, which require stringent security reviews, clearly favor local providers. Investors have picked up on this theme: Shenzhen-based Sangfor Technologies Inc., with a 25% and 22% market share in China’s VPN and content security segments, has soared 89% this year to $12.6 billion in market value. There are also regular cash handouts that lubricate companies’ daily operations, and money for new industrial parks. Injecting capital outright, as well as fast-tracking public-markets financing, are also on the table. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., China’s largest chip foundry and its best shot at catching up to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., checks all of the boxes. Its Hong Kong-listed shares have risen more than 200%, amassing a market cap of $29 billion.Without the Beijing put, though, the income statements of many tech firms would look drastically different. At SMIC, government funding, which appears in “other operating income,” rose 87% to $293 million in 2019. A further $59 million in the first quarter exceeded the foundry’s $51 million bottom-line profit; in other words, without subsidies, SMIC would be in the red — and it wouldn’t even have a price-to-earnings ratio to look at. This phenomenon is pervasive. Of the 37 listed companies classified as “integrated circuit” industries, subsidies accounted for a whopping 15% of operating profit last year, on a market-cap weighted basis, Bloomberg Opinion analysis shows.The stand-outs are memory-chip maker Gigadevice Semiconductor (Beijing) Inc. and Unigroup Guoxin Microelectronics Co., which designs chips used in smart cards. A similar picture emerges for software companies, such as Yonyou Network Technology Co., which aims to become China’s Salesforce.com Inc., and Sangfor. All these stocks are big winners this year. While it’s great Beijing is tending its tech gardens right now, the question is whether and when it will pull the plug. Over the years, China’s electric vehicle sector has had an on-again, off-again relationship with subsidies, creating turbulence in stocks, as my colleague Anjani Trivedi has written. Will the government get tired of paying for an expensive tech build-out, too? Another aspect worth considering is that, unlike previous endeavors, this new infrastructure spree will rely more on local governments than national spending. Indeed, major areas including Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu province have been rolling out ambitious investment blueprints lately. But, pinched by the virus outbreak, they have no money. Their funding gap will reach as much as 11.5 trillion yuan ($1.64 trillion) this year, according to the Ministry of Finance. The southwestern city of Chongqing, for instance, saw its fiscal revenue tumble by 16.8% in the first four months this year. Still, it vowed to become a strategic investor in Tsinghua Unigroup Co., which has the very expensive goal of becoming China’s Samsung Electronics Co. Will Chongqing be able to deliver? Of course, extraordinary times call for extraordinary ways to look at stocks. Right now, investors have big grins on their faces when they do a word search for mentions of “government” in company filings. China’s tech carnival can’t go on forever, though. At some point, wary of the trillion-dollar bills, Beijing will want to slow down the money flow. By then, investors will be left holding stocks with lofty ambitions and peanut-sized earnings.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Shuli Ren is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian markets. She previously wrote on markets for Barron's, following a career as an investment banker, and is a CFA charterholder.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Lithium-ion batteries play a central role in the world of technology, powering everything from smartphones to smart cars, and one of the people who helped commercialize them says he has a way to cut mass production costs by 90% and significantly improve their safety.Hideaki Horie, formerly of Nissan Motor Co., founded Tokyo-based APB Corp. in 2018 to make “all-polymer batteries” -- hence the company name. Earlier this year the company received backing from a group of Japanese firms that includes general contractor Obayashi Corp., industrial equipment manufacturer Yokogawa Electric Corp. and carbon fiber maker Teijin Ltd.“The problem with making lithium batteries now is that it’s device manufacturing like semiconductors,” Horie said in an interview. “Our goal is to make it more like steel production.”The making of a cell, every battery’s basic unit, is a complicated process requiring cleanroom conditions -- with airlocks to control moisture, constant air filtering and exacting precision to prevent contamination of highly reactive materials. The setup can be so expensive that a handful of top players like South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd., China’s CATL and Japan’s Panasonic Corp. spend billions of dollars to build a suitable factory.Horie’s innovation is to replace the battery’s basic components -- metal-lined electrodes and liquid electrolytes -- with a resin construction. He says this approach dramatically simplifies and speeds up manufacturing, making it as easy as “buttering toast.” It allows for 10-meter-long battery sheets that can be stacked on top of each other “like seat cushions” to increase capacity, he said. Importantly, the resin-based batteries are also resistant to catching fire when punctured.In March, APB raised 8 billion yen ($74 million), which is tiny by the wider industry’s standards but will be enough to fully equip one factory for mass production slated to start next year. Horie estimates the funds will get his plant in central Japan to 1 gigawatt-hour capacity by 2023.Lithium-ion batteries have come a long way since they were first commercialized almost three decades ago. They last longer, pack more power and cost 85% less than they did 10 years ago, serving as the quiet workhorse driving the growth of smartphones and tablets with ever more powerful internals. But safety remains an issue and batteries have been the cause of fires in everything from Tesla Inc.’s cars to Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner jets and Samsung Electronics Co.’s smartphones.“Just from the standpoint of physics, the lithium-ion battery is the best heater humanity has ever created,” Horie said.In a traditional battery, a puncture can create a surge measuring hundreds of amperes, several times the current of electricity delivered to an average home. Temperatures can then shoot up to 700 degrees Celsius. APB’s battery avoids such cataclysmic conditions by using a so-called bipolar design, doing away with present-day power bottlenecks and allowing the entire surface of the battery to absorb surges.“Because of the many incidents, safety has been at the top of mind in the industry,” said Mitalee Gupta, senior analyst for energy storage at Wood Mackenzie. “This could be a breakthrough for both storage and electric vehicle applications, provided that the company is able to scale up pretty quickly.”But the technology is not without its shortcomings. Polymers are not as conductive as metal and this could significantly impact the battery’s carrying capacity, according to Menahem Anderman, president of California-based Total Battery Consulting Inc. One drawback of the bipolar design is that cells are connected back-to-back in a series, making control of individual ones difficult, Anderman said. He also questioned whether the cost savings will be sufficient to compete with the incumbents.“Capital is not killing the cost of a lithium-ion battery,” Anderman said. “Lithium-ion with liquid electrolyte will remain the main application for another 15 years or more. It’s not perfect and it isn’t cheap, but beyond lithium-ion is a better lithium ion.”Horie acknowledges that APB can’t compete with battery giants who are already benefiting from economies of scale after investing billions. Instead of targeting the “red ocean” of the automotive sector, APB will first focus on stationary batteries used in buildings, offices and power plants.That market will be worth $100 billion by 2025 worldwide, more than five times its size last year, according to estimates by Wood Mackenzie. The U.S. alone -- which together with China will be the main source of increased energy storage demand -- is likely to see a 10-fold increase to $7 billion in the period.Horie, 63, got his start with lithium-ion batteries at their very beginning. In February 1990, early on in his Nissan career, he started the automaker’s nascent research into electric and hybrid vehicles. A few weeks later, Sony Corp. shocked the industry, which was betting on nickel-hydride technology, by announcing plans to commercialize a lithium-ion alternative. Horie says he immediately saw the promise and pushed for the two companies to combine research efforts that same year.By 2000, however, Nissan was giving up on its battery business, having just been rescued by Renault SA. Horie had one shot at convincing his new boss Carlos Ghosn that electric vehicles were worth it. After a 28-minute presentation, a visibly excited Ghosn proclaimed Horie’s work an important investment and green-lit the project. Nissan’s Leaf would go on to become the best-selling EV for a decade.Horie came up with the idea for the all-polymer battery while still at Nissan but wasn’t able to get institutional backing to make it real. In 2012, while doing a teaching stint at the University of Tokyo, he was approached by Sanyo Chemical Industries Ltd., known for its superabsorbent materials used in diapers. Together, the two developed the world’s first battery using a conductive gel polymer. In 2018, Horie founded APB and Sanyo Chemical became one of his early investors.APB has already lined up its first customer, a large Japanese company whose niche and high-value-added products sell mostly overseas, Horie said. He declined to give further details and said APB plans to make the announcement as early as August.“This will be the proof that our batteries can be mass-produced,” Horie said. “Battery makers have become assemblers. We are putting chemistry back into the lead role.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Nvidia Corp.’s market valuation topped Intel Corp.’s for the first time, powered by soaring demand for graphics chips in data centers and other fast-growing technology fields.Nvidia gained 2.4% on Wednesday, giving it a market value of more than $248 billion. Shares of the graphics chipmaker are up 72% so far this year as investors bet the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a shift to cloud-based digital services that use its technology. Intel shares have fallen 2% in 2020.Nvidia was co-founded in 1993 by Jensen Huang, who’s still running the company. At the time, it was one of about two dozen graphics chip companies. It’s now the only independent maker of these components, after all of its rivals have been bought, folded or become part of larger companies.Nvidia was more successful than its peers at developing chips that turn computer code into the realistic images computer gamers love. Under Huang, the company has pushed that technology into new markets, such as data center servers and artificial intelligence processing.In just five years, Nvidia’s data center business has grown from $300 million in annual revenue to almost $3 billion. The chipmaker has won orders to equip the giant computing factories owned by companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google by successfully arguing that graphics chips can handle AI workloads better than more standard processors.Nvidia is the only company to have made sizable inroads into a server chip market that Intel has mostly dominated. While Intel’s data center business still generates more than $20 billion in annual sales, Nvidia is growing much quicker.Investors have rewarded this fast expansion with a rich valuation. Since debuting on the Nasdaq in 1999, the stock has averaged an annual return of 33%. In the past five years, it has soared more than eightfold and trades at 75 times earnings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Intel shares trade at 12 times earnings.Nvidia is now the third-largest chipmaker by market capitalization, behind Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co.Intel is responding to Nvidia’s success by introducing similar graphics chips. The two companies are also targeting the market for processors that help run self-driving vehicles.Intel has weathered similar challenges before. In 2016, Qualcomm Inc.’s market value topped Intel’s as investors bet that smartphones would eclipse traditional computing in popularity. That happened, but Intel benefited indirectly through its server chips powering the cloud services relied on by handsets.Intel also lost the title of the world’s largest chipmaker by revenue to Samsung Electronics Co. in 2017. It regained the title a year later, thanks to its resilient server chip business.(Updates shares in second paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Samsung executive vice president Woojune Kim said the company was in active commercial discussions with European operators to supply network equipment, and was investing its resources in 4G, 5G and 6G rather than legacy technology. "The one thing that is a challenge for Samsung entering the UK or European market is more related to request for single RAN technology, or I would say more like 2G, 3G technology, the legacy technology," he told committee of British lawmakers on Thursday.
(Bloomberg) -- Augmented reality startup Magic Leap Inc. has hired Peggy Johnson, a Microsoft Corp. executive, to take over as chief executive officer starting next month, as the company continues to reshape itself as a provider of business services.Magic Leap had been one of the buzziest startups in recent years. It raised more than $2 billion from high-profile investors including Alphabet Inc., largely on the promise that it would turn augmented reality into a viable consumer technology. Rony Abovitz, the company founder and CEO, became the de facto evangelist for augmented reality, with bold and colorful pronouncements of its potential.But the Florida-based company struggled to execute, and sales of its flagship product, the Magic Leap One headset, never took off after extensive delays. The company said late last year it would focus more on business applications, and cut more than half of its workforce in April. Selling to companies is a far different prospect than building a consumer product, and one Abovitz rarely showed as much enthusiasm for. He announced in May he would step down once the company found a replacement.Johnson, who spent more than two decades at Qualcomm Inc., brings extensive experience negotiating partnerships with other large businesses. She joined Microsoft in 2014 as one of CEO Satya Nadella’s first major hires, at a time when the software maker’s dealings with other companies were often contentious. As head of business development, Johnson worked to repair Microsoft’s relationships with partners like Salesforce.com Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., becoming the face of a new, friendlier company. In 2016 she started Microsoft’s venture capital arm M12.“I look forward to strategically building enduring relationships that connect Magic Leap’s game-changing technology and pipeline to the wide-ranging digital needs of enterprises of all sizes and industries,” Johnson said Tuesday in a statement.Microsoft also makes one of the main rivals to Magic Leap, the Hololens, which it has always positioned primarily as a business tool. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company is satisfied that any confidentiality issues arising from Johnson moving to a direct competitor have been addressed.Microsoft will conduct an internal and external search to find Johnson’s replacement and her duties will be assumed in the short term by Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood, who already oversees mergers and acquisitions, according to a spokesperson.(Updates with background on Johnson in the fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Samsung Electronics looks set to report its best quarterly profit since 2018. It flagged a 23% rise in second-quarter operating profit on Tuesday (July 6), beating analyst forecasts. The surge is thanks to solid chip sales to data centres catering for a work-from-home economy. That's offset weak demand for smartphones and televisions. One-off gains from its display business, which has Apple as a customer, also boosted profits. The world's top memory-chip and smartphone maker said operating profit would likely come in at $6.8 billion for the quarter ending in June. Work-from-home orders and growth in online learning have helped push up DRAM memory chip prices. And other chipmakers are seeing similar growth. Some analysts though say increases in memory chip prices may not continue in the second half of the year, as data centres are likely to be more conservative in stockpiling. The South Korean tech giant's resilient earnings came even as its leader, Jay Y. Lee, faces fresh legal troubles. Prosecutors are investigating Lee on suspicion of accounting fraud and stock price manipulation to win control of Samsung Group - South Korea's largest conglomerate. Lee's attorneys have denied the allegations.
(Bloomberg) -- Samsung Asset Management Hong Kong Ltd. is changing the underlying benchmark for its oil ETF after it was unable to track the current index following a dramatic sell-off and subsequent rally in crude prices this year.Samsung Asset said it worked with S&P Dow Jones Indices to come up with a new index that will track multiple contract months for oil futures to mitigate the risk from holding a single-month contract, the Hong Kong-based money manager said in a statement late Monday.Once the new U.S. dollar index is rolled out in August, it will eventually be weighted 55% to the one-month forward index, 30% to the two-month index and 15% to the three-month, according to the statement. The ETF fell 2% in Hong Kong on Tuesday, the most in a week.The Samsung exchange-traded fund has trailed its underlying index since May, after investors poured into it to bet on a rebound in oil prices after the April plunge. The ETF’s money pool jumped 84 times to $626 million as of July 3, making it the fastest-growing money manager in Hong Kong, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.For those who bought the fund -- the Samsung S&P GSCI Crude Oil ER Futures ETF -- in April, their timing looked to be impeccable. Oil futures plunged to -$40 in New York on April 20, as the pandemic and price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia sent the market into freefall. The spot price for West Texas Intermediate has literally turned upside down since then, rallying to about $40 a barrel.Samsung was unable to track the recovery because its broker didn’t allow the fund to increase its exposure to oil futures. The fund didn’t name the broker. As a result, Samsung’s managers sold out of the active June contract and bought contracts for September, later adding ones for October and December. The September contracts were priced higher than those for June, meaning the fund held fewer of them, reducing their exposure to the ensuing rally.In a letter to shareholders dated April 21, amid the heightened market panic, Samsung explained its move.“Over the course of the past day, the price of June 2020 contracts has dropped substantially,” the fund wrote, adding it could drop to zero or negative.The fund said it was taking a “defensive position” to protect investors by selling the contracts in these “exceptional circumstances.”It acknowledged the trade-off for the move: “The downside is that investors may not be able to enjoy any upside of holding June 2020 contracts” if the market price rebounds.That’s exactly what happened. As a result, the fund has posted a decline of 78% this year as of July 2, compared with a 66% drop in the index it tracks. The fund appointed several clearing brokers in May.Unprecedented oil-market volatility this year has wreaked havoc on ETFs and other products designed to give investors an easy way to bet on the direction of crude prices. The Samsung ETF and the U.S. Oil Fund, which trades in New York, are among those that upended their strategies to reduce the risk of getting wiped out by another plunge below zero.Bank of China Ltd. faced a public outcry and scrutiny over the collapse of an investment product linked to oil futures, and is facing the possibility of absorbing $1 billion in losses suffered by its retail clients.In South Korea, mom-and-pop investors exposed to about 1.45 trillion won ($1.2 billion) worth of structured notes tied to Brent or WTI futures faced losses. In India at least three brokerages have petitioned the courts to challenge the settlement of contracts after their clients faced millions of dollars in losses from the negative prices.(Updates with share price of ETF fund in third paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co.’s shares slid nearly 3% on concerns that growth in chip demand may slow as the world emerges from Covid-19 in the second half of the year, outweighing a better-than-expected profit.The world’s largest manufacturer of memory chips and smartphones posted operating profit of 8.1 trillion won ($6.8 billion) in the three months ended June, beating the 6.2 trillion won average of estimates. Sales for the quarter were 52 trillion won, according to preliminary results released Tuesday. The company didn’t provide net income or break out divisional performance, which it will do later this month when it releases final results.The estimates include a one-time gain related to the display business. While the company didn’t offer details, some analysts estimated it could have recorded more than 1 trillion won in compensation from Apple Inc. for fewer-than-promised display orders.Despite its strong topline numbers, Samsung shares closed 2.9% down in Seoul on Tuesday, faring worse than the 1.1% drop in the KOSPI. Part of the negative sentiment may be explained by worries of a price decline in the key memory segment, where stockpiling orders in the current period might taper off.“The market is concerned about a potential slowdown in server expansions. Memory prices could be weakening in the 2H,” said Park Sung-soon, analyst at Cape Investment & Securities.The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a silver lining for the tech industry in hastening the shift toward online activity such as video conferencing, web-based education and entertainment streaming, helping Samsung sell more chips in the quarter.“Because of this work-from-home situation, there’s been strong demand for a couple of its products,” said Kiranjeet Kaur, a research manager at IDC. “The demand for DRAM has seen a spike in Q2 due to demand in server and data centers.”Read more: Samsung’s Surprise Leaves More Confusion Over Tech: Tim CulpanAlthough Samsung had warned of a profit slide in the second quarter due to plant and store closings, it managed to mitigate the fallout by cutting marketing expenses and selling TVs and monitors to people spending more time working and playing at home.Samsung’s mobile and consumer electronics businesses took a hit from the closures since mid-March, but stores and factories began reopening across North America and Europe from June. Hana Financial Investment forecasts Samsung will report around 5.5 million smartphone shipments for the second quarter when it releases its full breakdown.While Samsung’s business appears to be weathering the virus storm, the company has another significant challenge to deal with in determining the fate of its de-facto leader, Jay Y. Lee. The company’s vice chairman is facing allegations of corruption in Korea that could lead to prosecution and a return to prison.Read more: Samsung Billionaire’s Fate at Risk Despite Role in Virus Fight(Updates with share price and analyst comment from first paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Samsung Electronics Co.’s second-quarter earnings seem like good news. But it’s really not as simple as that.Revenue beat estimates by around 3.6% while operating profit topped even the highest of sell-side analyst estimates by 6.3%, the South Korean giant reported Tuesday. Right off the bat, those numbers carry a caveat: The company posted a one-time gain related to its display business that would have helped the bottom line.Still, there’s no denying that the top line was largely ahead of expectations — likely due to sales of memory chips used in servers. That doesn’t mean that Samsung has beaten the Covid-19 pandemic, though. Total revenue is 7.4% lower than a year earlier. These numbers reflect the mid-point of guidance, which Samsung provides within days of a quarter’s closing. We don’t yet know the size of that one-time profit on its display business. However, Bloomberg News reports that it could be as much as 1 trillion won ($840 million) in compensation from Apple Inc. for fewer-than-promised orders of screens used in iPhones, iPads and other devices. Such a figure would account for most of the discrepancy between earnings and estimates.Rather than being good news, the payment would represent a bad sign for the technology sector, reflecting weaker demand for gadgets. We saw further signs of that late Monday, with Foxconn Technology Group’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. reporting a 9.1% slump in June sales, closing out second-quarter revenue with a 2.3% drop. Hon Hai assembles iPhones. This is traditionally low season for Apple’s flagship device, so much of that decline will be for other products that Foxconn makes, including personal computers, servers and data-center equipment. While a single-digit drop isn’t terrible given what’s happening in the global economy, it does contrast with the optimism shown in stock markets in recent weeks. Apple shares are at an all-time high, while Amazon.com Inc.’s market value just topped $1.5 trillion.Samsung investors seem a little befuddled, too. Its shares rose as much as 1.6% Tuesday after the announcement, but fell later in the morning as the market started digesting the news. The reaction also tells us that rather than being a positive sign, this earnings tidbit highlights just how confusing the current situation is.Samsung’s results are an allegory for much of what we see in the tech sector these days: Bad news (revenue dropping) taken as optimistic because it beat estimates, while seemingly good news (operating profit surpassing expectations) actually being a sign of weakness due to it being a compensatory payment.These are the kinds of conflicting signs we’ll see a lot more this earnings season. Investors need to get used to flying blind.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> flagged a 23% rise in second-quarter operating profit on Tuesday, beating analysts' estimates on solid chip sales to data centres catering for a work-from-home economy during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The sales offset weak demand for smartphones and televisions, while one-off gains from its display business, which counts Apple Inc. <AAPL.O> as a customer, also boosted profits, the company said. The world's top memory-chip and smartphone maker said operating profit was likely 8.1 trillion won (£5.44 billion) in the quarter that ended in June, far above the 6.4 trillion won analyst forecast by Refinitiv SmartEstimate.
At Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS>, demand for its chips from data centres bulking up to meet a surge in work-from-home traffic was not likely enough to offset muted sales of its smartphones in the second quarter, analysts said. Profit likely fell 4.5% to 6.3 trillion won (4.21 billion pounds) from the same period year earlier, according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate, which is weighted towards the more consistently accurate analysts. Work-from-home orders and growth in online learning is underpinning chip demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting U.S. DRAM supplier Micron Technology Inc <MU.O> to forecast strong quarterly revenue last month.
(Bloomberg) -- Chinese flexible display maker Royole Corp. is weighing an initial public offering in China while its planned U.S. listing is put on hold, according to people familiar with the matter.Royole had filed confidentially for a U.S. IPO that could raise about $1 billion, Bloomberg News reported earlier this year. However, the startup is now considering a listing in China, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.Considerations are at an early stage and no final decisions have been made, the people said. A representative for Royole declined to comment on the matter.Royole, known for manufacturing the world’s first commercial foldable phone, had originally planned to raise funds via a private financing round at a valuation of about $8 billion, people familiar with that deal said last year. But the Chinese company turned to the U.S. markets after liquidity tightened during a downturn in China’s venture capital sector, the people said.Since January relations between the U.S. and China have deteriorated sharply, with tensions spanning trade, technology and Hong Kong. Many U.S.-listed Chinese companies are considering second listings closer to home in Hong Kong, while China has been actively seeking to lure innovative technology companies to list in Shanghai and Shenzhen.Royole competes with Samsung Electronics Co. and BOE Technology Group Co. to produce bendable screens using cutting-edge organic light-emitting diode technology. The company, which gave away wraparound-screen hats at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, in January unveiled a smart speaker that packs a bendable display around a cylinder.Its full line of products encompasses head-mounted displays intended for use as so-called mobile theaters and other wearable flexible displays. The company even has a smart writing pad that it sells on Amazon.com, JD.com and in stores globally.Royole’s earlier investors include Knight Capital, IDG Capital, Poly Capital Management, AMTD Group, the funds of Chinese tycoon Xie Zhikun and the venture capital arm of the Shenzhen city government.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Twenty advocacy groups from the United States, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere signed a statement Wednesday urging regulators to be wary of Google's $2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker company Fitbit Inc because of privacy and competition concerns. The 20 organizations - which include the U.S.-based Public Citizen, Access Now from Europe and the Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense - argued that the deal would expand the already considerable clout in digital markets of Alphabet Inc's Google. Acquiring Fitbit would give Google such intimate information about users as how many steps they take daily, the quality of their sleep and their heart rates.
(Bloomberg) -- Cooped up within a large conference room on the 15th floor of government offices in downtown Seoul, 13 South Korean citizens sparred for nine hours over the country’s most contentious issue: the legal fate of Samsung heir apparent Jay Y. Lee.The all-male group -- including professors, school teachers and two Buddhist monks -- gathered Friday after Lee invoked a rarely used option to have a civilian panel review legal cases. They heard arguments for and against indicting the billionaire on allegations of financial fraud. They then debated among themselves for another two hours before deciding to try a secret ballot to break the impasse. The outcome -- 10 against an indictment and just three for -- stunned panel members themselves.“We were all quite surprised,” one of the members told Bloomberg News, asking not to be named since he wasn’t authorized to talk about their discussions. “We had a heated debate but not every member exposed their thinking. It was really hard to tell.”The decision, while not legally binding, hands an important victory to Samsung and its de facto leader, who gambled on the little-known system to undercut the government’s case and showcase support for Korea’s largest corporation. The recommendation provoked an immediate backlash from corporate governance activists and lawmakers, who urged prosecutors to seek Lee’s indictment anyway. But if they decide to ignore the panel, officials risk angering a populace that regards Samsung -- the world’s largest maker of smartphones, memory chips and appliances -- as critical to reviving the country’s economy after the coronavirus outbreak.Lee’s attorneys said they are “thankful” for the panel’s involvement and “respect the decision.” Representatives for the prosecutors’ office declined to comment when contacted for this story.On Wednesday, civil organizations from both sides of the debate held separate press conferences in Seoul to comment on the panel’s conclusion. Samsung Electronics Co. shares fell 0.4% on the day, while Samsung Biologics, one of the companies implicated in the allegations against Lee, was down 3%.Read more: Samsung’s Billionaire Heir Scores Public Win in Graft ProbeBefore Lee’s request, few outside of legal circles had even heard of the civil panel option, which was created in 2018. Now it’s influencing a case that’s spurred nationwide controversy, pitting the country’s most powerful chaebols, or conglomerates, against government agencies that have pledged to diminish their influence and cozy ties to the president’s administration and his Blue House.In most legal systems of the developed world, public prosecutors decide which cases to pursue, with judges or juries acting as a check by determining the ultimate verdict. South Korea started the unusual civilian panel option as part of reforms under the Moon Jae-in administration. It’s similar to the grand jury system except panel members are chosen -- at random -- by the supreme prosecutors’ office from an existing pool of several hundred pre-vetted names. Friday’s panel thus served as a barometer for how the public views the Samsung heir as well as the chief prosecutor, who is appointed by the president.Their meeting started at 10:30 am. Prosecutors gave a presentation for about 75 minutes, then a Q&A session for another 90. Following a half-hour boxed lunch, Lee’s lawyers took their turn. During the discussions, the panelists pored over 50 pages of densely worded legal statements, plus a lengthy filing from a liberal civil organization that explained the allegations against Lee, which included stock and accounting manipulation. There followed a final, two-hour-long. freewheeling debate, during which the 13 openly expressed their views, one of them said. At one point, a reporter texted one of the members -- whose identities had been kept under wraps -- causing a bit of a stir.A second panelist said he expected a close vote considering the polarized public opinion. A third member said he was disheartened about the subsequent controversy over the decision, given they tried their best to be impartial. But he acknowledged one or two members raised the question of the economic impact of Samsung’s legal crisis. “This is an ideological war surrounding a chaebol company behind the scenes,” one of the panelists said.Why Samsung’s Billionaire Scion Is Facing Jail Again: QuickTakeSouth Korea’s special prosecutors first indicted Lee in early 2017 on charges of bribery and corruption, kicking off a years-long dispute that led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye. Prosecutors accused Samsung of providing horses and other payments to a confidante of Park’s, to win support for his succession. Lee was found guilty, but then freed after about a year after the court suspended his sentence -- a controversial decision that the Supreme Court has since reversed, raising the prospect of a retrial. The case discussed Friday was related and centers on whether Lee and Samsung used illegal means to help him take control of the conglomerate founded by his grandfather.While one of the panelists broached the bigger political and economic ramifications, they got bogged down in highly technical details. Members said the biggest hitch in deliberations was how to interpret Article 178 - the prohibition of unfair trading - of the Financial Investment Services and Capital Markets Act, and whether Lee violated the clause. Prosecutors suspect Samsung Biologics Co. intentionally violated accounting rules to justify a more favorable merger ratio between Biologics’ major owner, Cheil Industries, and Samsung C&T. That in turn helped bolster the value of the heir’s stake in Cheil and his influence at Samsung Group. Prosecutors also allege that Lee was involved in stock price manipulations during the 2015 merger, which Samsung and Lee’s attorneys have denied.The panel was divided on whether Samsung complied with financial law during the deal, and on whether Samsung had a clear motive to execute the merger for Lee. One of the members said some were of the opinion that prosecutors had so far failed to produce a “smoking gun,” a strong persuasive argument that crimes were committed. But another member who said he voted against Lee said there were ample documents to support a case against the executive, including records of phone calls and emails that appeared to show Lee was aware of the alleged scheme. He didn’t elaborate, citing legal confidentiality.The ball is now in the prosecutors’ court, another of the members said. Prosecutors have mostly abided by previous recommendations, but no panel has ever reviewed such a high-stakes case. Officials have invested years into their investigation and may seek to make an example of Lee. If they decide to proceed, an indictment may tie up Samsung’s chief in trials for another three years.“Apart from Lee’s personal responsibility, I believe this should be a chance to uphold financial market law and order,” one of the members said. “Our society has to become transparent and fair for our future generations.”(Updates with share prices and Wednesday developments in sixth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
IPhone maker Apple, the target of EU antitrust investigations into key segments of its business, on Tuesday rejected accusations of market dominance, saying it competes with Google, Samsung and other rivals. Earlier this month, the European Commission opened investigations into Apple's App Store and mobile payment system Apple Pay, concerned about its role as a gatekeeper to its lucrative platform. "We compete with a wide variety of companies, Google, Samsung, Huawei, Vivo, LG, Lenovo and many more," Daniel Matray, head of Apple's App Store and Apple Media Services, told a Forum Europe online event.
Sydney, Australia, June 30, 2020 - (ABN Newswire) - Etherstack plc (ASX:ESK) has entered a global teaming agreement with Samsung Electronics (KRX:005930) to deliver next generation Mission Critical Push ...
(Bloomberg) -- China’s No. 2 smartphone brand Vivo Mobile Communications Co. has broken ground on a high-rise office in Shenzhen to house its future headquarters, highlighting a construction boom from the country’s burgeoning tech sector.Scheduled for completion in 2025, the gadget maker’s 32-story abode will house 5,800 workers and was designed by NBBJ, the architects behind Samsung’s Silicon Valley campus and Seattle’s Amazon Spheres. The new building will feature Vivo’s flagship store, indoor gardens at every level and a spiraling exterior with self-shading glass, according to the architectural firm.Vivo joins the likes of Tencent Holdings Ltd. and ByteDance Ltd. in spending big on new office space -- much of it in the bustling tech hub of Shenzhen -- adding to a mega-building splurge at a time when economic turmoil is forcing other businesses to cut back. WeChat operator Tencent is building an adjacent campus roughly the size of midtown Manhattan on reclaimed land in Qianhai Bay that cost the company $1.2 billion. Vivo paid 1.3 billion yuan ($182 million) for the site of its new headquarters and TikTok owner ByteDance recently spent 1.1 billion yuan for land in the city’s downtown area, according to the local land authority.Kuaishou, a YouTube-like video platform backed by Tencent, is spending 3 billion yuan on a base for its fledgling e-commerce business in Chengdu, complete with studios for live-streamers hawking wares.Some economists say building booms signal an overheated economy that precedes a crash. But NBBJ, which also designed campuses for Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. affiliate Ant Group, argues China’s tech giants have outgrown their old digs and are now merely seeking space to anchor a potential wave of future global expansion.Vivo, which began life in the midst of Android’s rise a decade ago, has steadily grown into a leader at home and across Asia and Europe, alongside compatriots Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. Its development encapsulates the way Chinese names have started making waves abroad.“What we’ve seen now is part of a natural life cycle of these companies where they’ve outgrown their current facilities, and they need new ones to operationally support their growing global reach,” said NBBJ partner Robert Mankin, who’s responsible for the Vivo project. “It’s increasingly rare in the U.S. for companies to build their individual headquarters campus, and you still see it in Asia.”Read more: ByteDance Launches Global Hiring Spree With 10,000 New JobsThe tech campus boom coincides with a trillion-dollar effort in China to both stimulate the economy and lay the networking and data-center foundations for next-generation internet technology. In terms of offices, Tencent has the most ambitious expansion plans among its peers. Dubbed Net City, its latest project includes solar panels, arrays of automated sensors, mangroves to prevent flooding and a pedestrian-friendly transportation network. It will take around seven years to complete.Tencent currently has 38,000 workers in Shenzhen, with the headcount expected to more than double in seven years, according to the local government. ByteDance has said it plans to create 40,000 new jobs this year, and the startup has rented new offices in Hong Kong and bought a Beijing shopping plaza to convert into a workplace.Vivo’s crosstown rival Oppo is also building new headquarters in Shenzhen. The project, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, will feature a 20-story vertical lobby, an art gallery, shops and restaurants. Construction is expected to complete in 2025.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and China are moving beyond bellicose trade threats to exchanging regulatory punches that threaten a wide range of industries including technology, energy and air travel.The two countries have blacklisted each other’s companies, barred flights and expelled journalists. The unfolding skirmish is starting to make companies nervous the trading landscape could shift out from under them.“There are many industries where U.S. companies have made long-term bets on China’s future because the market is so promising and so big,” said Myron Brilliant, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s head of international affairs. Now, they’re “recognizing the risk.”China will look to avoid measures that could backfire, said Shi Yinhong, an adviser to the nation’s cabinet and a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. Any sanctions on U.S. companies would be a “last resort” because China “is in desperate need of foreign investment from rich countries for both economic and political reasons.”Nevertheless, pressure is only expected to intensify ahead of the U.S. elections in November, as President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden joust over who will take a tougher line on China.Trump has blamed China for covering up the coronavirus pandemic he has mocked as “Kung Flu,” accused Beijing of “illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets” and threatened the U.S. could pursue a “complete decoupling” from the country. Biden, likewise, has described President Xi Jinping as a thug, labeled mass detention of Uighur Muslims as unconscionable and accused China of predatory trade practices.And on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats have found rare unity in their opposition to China, with lawmakers eager to take action against Beijing for its handling of Covid-19, forced technology transfers, human rights abuses and its tightening grip on Hong Kong.“China is going to be a punching bag in the campaign,” said Capital Alpha Partners’ Byron Callan. “But China is a punching bag that can punch back.”China has repeatedly rejected U.S. accusations over its handling of the pandemic, Uighurs, Hong Kong and trade, and it has fired back at the Trump administration for undermining global cooperation and seeking to start a “new cold war.” Foreign Minister Wang Yi last month said China had no interest in replacing the U.S. as a hegemonic power, while adding that the U.S. should give up its “wishful thinking” of changing the country.Both sides have already taken a series of regulatory moves aimed at protecting market share.The U.S. is citing security concerns in blocking China Mobile Ltd., the world’s largest mobile operator, from entering the U.S. market. It’s culling Chinese-made drones from government fleets and discouraging the deployment of Chinese transformers on the power grid. The Trump administration has also tried to constrain the global reach of China’s Huawei Technologies Co., the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer.Meanwhile, China prevented U.S. airline flights into the country for more than two months and, after the U.S. imposed visa restrictions on Chinese journalists, it expelled American journalists. It has stepped up its scrutiny of U.S. companies, with China’s state news agency casting one probe as a warning to the White House. China also has long made it difficult for U.S. telecommunications companies to enter its market, requiring overseas operators to co-invest with local firms and requiring authorization by the central government.One of the most combustible flash points has been the Trump administration’s campaign to contain Huawei by seeking to limit the company’s business in the U.S. and push allies to shun its gear in their networks.The U.S. Federal Communications Commission moved to block devices made by Huawei and ZTE Corp. from being used in U.S. networks. And the Commerce Department has placed Huawei on blacklists aimed at preventing the Chinese company from using U.S. technology for the chips that power its network gear, including tech from suppliers Qualcomm Inc. and Broadcom Inc.After suppliers found work-arounds, Commerce in May tightened rules to bar any chipmaker using American equipment from selling to Huawei without U.S. approval. The step could constrain virtually the entire contract chipmaking industry, which uses equipment from U.S. vendors such as Applied Materials Inc., Lam Research Corp. and KLA Corp. in wafer fabrication plants.The curbs also threaten to cripple Huawei. Although the company can buy off-the-shelf or commodity mobile chips from a third party such as Samsung Electronics Co. or MediaTek Inc., going that route would force it to make costly compromises on performance in basic products.Huawei was on a list the Pentagon unveiled last week of companies it says are owned or controlled by China’s military, opening them to increased scrutiny. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing accused the Trump administration of “violating the very market economy principle the U.S. champions.”“We are strongly opposed to this,” the foreign ministry said Sunday of the Pentagon’s designation. “China urges the U.S. to stop suppressing Chinese companies without reason and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for Chinese companies to operate normally in the U.S.”After the new restrictions, the editor of the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper tweeted that China would retaliate using an “unreliable entities list” that it first threatened at the height of the trade war last year. Although China didn’t identify companies on the list, the Global Times has cited a source close to the Chinese government as saying U.S. bellwethers such as Apple Inc. and Qualcomm could be targeted.The fallout could extend to companies heavily reliant on Chinese supply chains, as well consumer-facing brands eager to expand sales in Asia. Boeing Co., which recorded $5.7 billion of revenue from China in 2019, and Tesla Inc., the biggest U.S. carmaker operating independently in China, are among companies most exposed if relations sour further.“We’re playing in a much wider field now,” said Jim Lucier, managing director of research firm Capital Alpha Partners. “We’re not simply talking about ‘you tariff me’ and ‘I tariff you.’ The playing field is virtually unlimited.”Planes and AutomobilesU.S. automakers have also been singed. In June, China fined Ford Motor Co.’s main joint venture in the country for antitrust violations, saying Changan Ford Automobile Co. had restricted retailers’ sale prices since 2013.Aviation has been another source of tension, as both countries squabble over access to their skies. China’s decision to limit U.S. airlines operations to those services scheduled as of March 12 hurt carriers such as United Airlines Holdings Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc, and American Airlines Group Inc. that had suspended passenger flights to and from China because of the coronavirus pandemic.The U.S. responded earlier this month by initially threatening to ban all flights from China, then relenting to allow two flights weekly once Chinese officials eased their restrictions. Now, in what appears to be a staged de-escalation, China gave U.S. passenger carriers permission to operate four weekly flights to the country and earlier this month, the Trump administration matched the move by also authorizing four flights from Chinese airlines.It’s happening outside of aviation too. Consider the U.S. government’s decision to seize a half-ton, Chinese-made electrical transformer when it arrived at an American port last year and divert the gear to a national lab instead of the Colorado substation where it was supposed to be deployed. That move -- and a May executive order from Trump authorizing the blockade of electric grid gear supplied by “foreign adversaries” of the U.S. in the name of national security -- have already sent shock waves through the power sector.The effect has been to dissuade American utilities from buying Chinese equipment to replace aging components in the nation’s electrical grid, said Jim Cai, the U.S. representative for Jiangsu Huapeng Transformer Co., the company whose delivery was seized. Although Cai said the firm has supplied parts to private utilities and government-run grid operators in the U.S. for nearly 15 years without security complaints, at least one American utility has since canceled a transformer award to the company, Cai said.Trump’s directive is tied to a broader effort to bring more manufacturing to the U.S. from China. “This is a part of the administration’s efforts to impair China’s supply chains into the United States,” said former White House adviser Mike McKenna.Escalating tensions could jeopardize the U.S. economic recovery as well as China’s trade commitment to buy $200 billion in American goods and services over the next two years. The country’s purchase of U.S. goods increased last month as the economy continued its recovery from the coronavirus shutdowns, but imports are still far behind the pace needed to meet the terms of the phase one trade deal, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from China’s Customs Administration.U.S.-China struggles also may factor into the November presidential election. Former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton alleges in a new book that Trump asked Xi to help him win re-election by buying more farm products -- a claim the White House has dismissed as untrue.“I don’t expect one single blow to send this relationship in a tailspin,” the chamber’s Brilliant said. “Each side will calibrate their reactions in a way that will not tip the scales too far.”Take the recent spat over media access. After the U.S. designated five Chinese media companies as “foreign missions,” China revoked press credentials for three Wall Street Journal staff members over an article with a headline describing China as the “real sick man of Asia.”Then the Trump administration ordered Chinese state-owned news outlets to slash staff working in the U.S. Beijing responded in March by effectively expelling more than a dozen U.S. journalists working in China.Both the U.S. and China have ample opportunities to ratchet up regulatory pressure. A bill passed by the Senate last month could prompt the delisting of Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges if American officials aren’t allowed to review their financial audits.And last week, as the U.S. State Department imposed visa bans on Chinese Communist Party officials accused of infringing the freedom of Hong Kong citizens, a senior official made clear the move was just an opening salvo in a campaign to force Beijing to back off new restrictions on the city.China, similarly, can slow licensing decisions and regulatory approvals, launch investigations under its anti-monopoly law and squeeze financial firms that want to do business in the country. For instance, the country could rescind pledges to let U.S. financial firms take controlling stakes in Chinese investment banking joint ventures, according to a Cowen analyst.“China will not make any significant compromise and will retaliate whenever and wherever possible,” said Shi, the Renmin University professor.Companies are still lured to China and its massive local market -- and tensions with the U.S. don’t overcome the Asian superpower’s appeal. Just one-fifth of companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in China late last year said they had moved or were considering moving some operations outside of the country, part of a three-year downward trend.But the coronavirus pandemic has subsequently pushed more companies to reckon with the risks of relying too heavily on any single country for their supply chains, amid existing concerns about forced technology transfers, cost and rising tensions that could damp investment in China.China is no longer the lowest-cost manufacturer, and companies are more reluctant to invest there, said James Lewis, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.“Everyone would like to be in the China market -- everyone wants it to be like 2010 -- but things are changing.”(Updates with trade data in 28th paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- South Korean Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki sees a third extra budget pending approval in parliament as the last for this year and said the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic may have bottomed.South Korea’s economy can still avoid its first annual contraction in more than two decades if stimulus measures including the latest supplementary budget get carried out quickly enough to build on the momentum of improving exports and consumer confidence, Hong said in an interview with Bloomberg on Friday.“We are seeing signs of consumption and exports recovering from May,” said Hong, who also serves as deputy prime minister. “What’s more important than pouring out more measures and money is ensuring that the third extra budget and the series of measures taken in the first half feed through.”The government has so far pledged more than 270 trillion won ($225 billion), or roughly 14% of its gross domestic product, to support businesses and families hit by the pandemic.Though most economists expect South Korea’s GDP to contract this year for the first time since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, Hong reiterated that the government’s 0.1% projection isn’t out of reach if policy efforts are swiftly implemented.While Hong sees a need to focus on passing the third extra budget and implementing measures, lawmakers have a big say in supplementary budget decisions, holding the final key to approvals and often igniting discussions on the need for such spending.Hong’s less pessimistic view on the economy comes amid signs of improvement.Exports may show surprising strength toward the end of the year as major trading partners reopen their economies, Hong said, with chips, ships and medical supplies leading the recovery.South Korea’s exports slumped more than 20% in April and May, but early trade data point to a more moderate fall this month amid resilient chip demand and more purchases from China.“The atmosphere for an improvement of exports is turning more favorable,” he said, while adding that overall shipments will still likely contract for the year.Having flattened the infection curve earlier than most countries, South Korea is now focusing on a post-pandemic growth strategy that fosters new industries. Driving the strategy is President Moon Jae-in’s “New Deal” program, which seeks to create 550,000 new jobs by spending 31 trillion won through 2022, when his term ends.The government will focus its investment on artificial intelligence, bio technology, self-driving cars and other data-intensive industries as their success can spill across other businesses, Hong said.South Korea is keeping a “nervous eye” on China, whose “Made in China 2025” plan overlaps with its ambitions in many technology sectors, he said. Still, it’s the private-sector investment that holds the key to maintaining South Korea’s competitive edge, Hong added, commending Samsung Electronics Co., SK Hynix Inc. and LG Display Co. for their recent decisions to expand production lines.Launching new businesses is also central to finding the next growth engine, he said, adding that only 0.8% of half a million college graduates in Korea begin startups compared with 8% of 7 million graduates in China.South Korea Bets on ‘Untact’ for the Post-Pandemic EconomyHong said the pandemic has prompted South Korea to rethink its dependence on factories abroad, with the government planning to announce supply-chain reshaping measures in July to better absorb future shocks from outside.Hong expressed confidence in South Korea’s economic resilience, but said he was anxious about the possibility of its credit rating being changed as the government ratchets up spending and economic difficulties grow.The government’s stimulus measures are expected to push up South Korea’s debt-to-GDP ratio to about 43%, but that’s still very low compared with the OECD average of around 110%, Hong said.South Korea still has fiscal room for further action, though the pace of debt increase could be a concern, he said. The government is looking to propose rules limiting debt accumulation in late August, he added.The Bank of Korea has also done its part to avert a deeper downturn, cutting rates to a record 0.5% and providing unlimited liquidity via repurchase agreements. While pledging to keep monetary policy accommodative until the economy recovers, Governor Lee Ju-yeol recently flagged the need to prepare for an eventual policy normalization to prevent financial distortions.Hong said he understands Lee’s concerns from a monetary policy perspective, but added that the focus must stay on economic recovery for now.“The timing is too early to talk about normalizing the supply of liquidity as many companies are still complaining about a lack of liquidity,” Hong said.As for ongoing minimum wage discussions for next year, Hong said the economic situation under the coronavirus should be considered by the committee that sets the rate of increase, as well as the welfare of workers.The minimum wage rose by double digits in 2018 and 2019 after Moon took office vowing better living standards for workers. The pace slowed to 2.9% for this year amid a backlash from businesses.Asked about his biggest concern of late, Hong mentioned the “For Rent” signs on streets he saw during his 10-minute ride to work that point to more business closures.“That hurts,” he said. “The pressure to get an economic recovery going as early as possible is what keeps me awake at night.”(Adds Hong’s comments on entrepreneurship, business closures)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Samsung heir-apparent Jay Y. Lee scored a symbolic public victory Friday after a civilian review panel recommended against indicting the billionaire on charges of corruption.The panel, convened after Lee’s lawyers invoked the rarely used system in an effort to undermine prosecutors, voted in favor of halting an indictment, a spokesperson for the supreme prosecutors’ office said by phone. While not legally binding, that judgment could prove difficult to contravene. “We respect the decision made by the committee members,” Lee’s attorneys said in a statement. “We are thankful that the panel gave an opportunity for Samsung and vice chairman Jay Y. Lee to overcome the current crisis by focusing on business activities.”In most legal systems of the developed world, public prosecutors get to decide which cases to pursue, with judges or juries acting as a check by determining the ultimate verdict. In South Korea, the approach is a little different.The country has established an unusual process that allows suspects to call for an independent panel of experts to review prosecutors’ investigations. The highest-stakes case since this novel system was established in 2018 was heard Friday when lawyers for the billionaire scion of Samsung Group tried to convince a panel his prosecution for alleged financial crimes would be unfair.Attorneys for Lee, de facto leader of Samsung Electronics Co., squared off Friday against government prosecutors before 14 academics, legal experts and civil activists.Lee, embroiled in an increasingly contentious dispute with Korean prosecutors over allegations of bribery and accounting manipulation, represents the biggest test so far of a civil committee system created to help check prosecutors’ powers. Friday’s panel served as a barometer for how the public views the Samsung chief’s culpability as well as a test of the legitimacy of prosecutors, whose leader in Korea is appointed by the president.Lee’s attorneys -- who invoked their right to convene that group -- gambled the panel will rule in his favor, particularly after prosecutors failed this month to win an arrest warrant for the executive. Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone and memory chip maker and a symbol of Korea’s decades-long economic ascent, spent millions in past months on initiatives to battle Covid-19, including the widespread testing that’s proven instrumental in curbing the pandemic at home.“If the panel decides the case is not indictable, prosecutors will be put under immense pressure, and that’s what Samsung is aiming for,” Park Ju-gun, president at corporate research firm CEOScore.com, said before the panel’s recommendation was announced.Read more: Samsung Billionaire’s Fate at Risk Despite Role in Virus FightBefore Lee’s request, few outside of legal circles had even heard of the civil panel option. Adopted as part of prosecution reforms under the Moon Jae-in administration, it’s similar to the grand jury system except the panel members are chosen -- at random -- by the supreme prosecutors’ office from an existing pool of several hundred previously vetted names.Now, the little-known system proved pivotal to a case that’s spurred nationwide controversy, pitting the country’s most powerful chaebols, or conglomerates, against government agencies that have pledged to diminish their influence and cozy ties to the Blue House.South Korea’s special prosecutors first indicted Lee in early 2017 on charges of bribery and corruption, alleging that Samsung provided horses and other payments to a confidante of the former president to win support to help ease his succession. The case heard Friday was related and centers on whether Lee and Samsung used illegal means to help him take control of the conglomerate founded by his grandfather.Why Samsung’s Billionaire Scion Is Facing Jail Again: QuickTakeThe current probe kicked off after regulators concluded Samsung Biologics Co. intentionally violated accounting rules and inflated its value ahead of an initial public offering. Prosecutors suspect the violation was intended to justify the merger ratio between Biologics’ major owner, Cheil Industries, and Samsung C&T. That in turn helped bolster the value of the heir’s stake in Cheil and his influence at Samsung Group. The Biologics unit has said it didn’t violate accounting standards. Lee’s attorneys, which include several former senior prosecutors, may argue to the panel that the Biologics transactions were legitimate and approved by authorities at the time.Lee also counted on his image as a virus-fighter and national business leader to not just win a favorable panel review on Friday, but also more broadly influence the ongoing trial, said Lee Sang-hun, analyst at HI Investment & Securities. Beyond Samsung’s highly visible battle against Covid-19, Lee scored points last month after he issued a rare public apology for past mis-steps, and vowed never to pass Samsung’s reins to his children.Prosecutors have mostly followed the panel’s decision in past cases, according to local media. They can ignore an unfavorable outcome and move forward with an indictment -- but that risks angering the populace. Public opinion is so important in Korea it’s been known to sway court verdicts. Lee’s request for a panel has incensed prosecutors, who regard the move as an attempt to circumvent the legal process by appealing to a third party.“Samsung is striving to reduce legal risks with support from public opinion,” said Lee of HI Investment & Securities.Read more: Court Rejects Arrest of Samsung’s Lee in Succession Probe(Updates with comment from Lee’s lawyers in third paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. campaign to hamstring China’s Huawei Technologies Co. is gaining fresh impetus as the Trump administration chokes off supplies of vital microchips and Beijing causes dismay on both sides of the Atlantic with its stance on Hong Kong and the coronavirus.The U.K. is reconsidering its embrace of Huawei while carriers in Denmark and Singapore have chosen other providers for their telecommunications networks. Meanwhile, Germany and France are reassessing the role of the company that the U.S. accuses of theft, sanctions busting and providing an avenue for espionage.Only months ago, the U.S. was struggling to persuade its allies not to use Huawei’s equipment. But in May, Washington moved to handcuff Huawei to outdated technology by denying it chips made with U.S. techniques. The change could turn Huawei into a permanent laggard, unable to update and maintain cutting-edge 5G networks that will be communications backbones for decades to come.At the same time, politics have been unkind to Huawei’s ambitions. Officials in Europe and the U.S. have criticized China over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. And Beijing drew condemnation for preparing national security laws for Hong Kong, a step seen as a threat to the city’s autonomy.“Two years ago no one worried about buying Huawei - that’s not true any more,” said James Lewis, director of the technology policy program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington. He sees “some progress,” in swaying other countries to ban Huawei “although well short of a total ban.”President Donald Trump is boasting of success, saying in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, “Look how tough I’ve been on Huawei. Nobody has been tougher than me.”The U.S. says Huawei is a threat to security for the fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless systems that are beginning to be deployed around the world. The networks promise speed and ubiquity: a thick forest of always-on links to billions of devices in homes, factories, surgical suites and autonomous vehicles. As more and more devices and networks are connected, vulnerability to hacking or espionage grows apace.Because Huawei is subject to control by China’s ruling Communist Party, it can be compelled by law to cooperate with the country’s security apparatus, and has been implicated in espionage, according to the State Department. The Pentagon chimed in Wednesday, sticking Huawei on a list of 20 companies it says are owned or controlled by China’s military, opening them up to potential new US. sanctions.Rob Manfredo, a U.S.-based spokesman for Huawei, didn’t respond to a request for comment.Huawei has denied allegations of spying, saying it would lose customers if it weren’t trustworthy. The Shenzhen-based company says it’s a private business that can’t be directed by Beijing, and that no Chinese law requires private national companies to engage in cyber-espionage.Chip BanThe Commerce Department’s ban in May of the sale of any silicon made with U.S. know-how was a potentially crippling blow to China’s tech champion. Huawei’s stockpiles of certain self-designed chips essential to telecom equipment will run out by early 2021, people familiar with the matter have said. While Huawei can buy off-the-shelf or commodity mobile chips from a third party like Samsung Electronics Co., it couldn’t possibly get enough and may have to make costly compromises on performance in basic products, they added.The chip restrictions add “uncertainty and potential costs” that could leave Huawei unable to meet commitments to build and maintain networks, said Robert Williams, executive director of the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School. “The trade-offs between cost and security risks may look different now than they once did to the U.K.”Huawei’s position is sharply contested in Britain.The U.K. in January barred Huawei from sensitive core network components and high-risk areas like nuclear-power sites, but said the Chinese company could still constitute as much as 35% of networks’ 5G and fiber equipment elsewhere.That prompted an angry phone call from Trump to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Trump administration has said any country that uses an “untrustworthy” 5G vendor jeopardizes intelligence sharing with the U.S. That would strike at the heart of the traditional “Five Eyes” security alliance linking the U.S. and U.K., along with Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to cooperate on espionage.The U.K.’s January decision also triggered a rebellion of junior lawmakers in Johnson’s Conservative Party. Since then, Hong Kong and Covid-19 have helped to harden their stance.U.K. government officials now are seeking ways to phase the company out in as little as three years.“There’s been a pretty effective relentless American campaign,” said Sam Armstrong, spokesman for the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based policy group that has argued for blocking Huawei from the U.K.’s 5G networks. “The evidence in Parliament and the threats to Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangements have all contributed to a sense that this has had a seriously undermining effect on our trans-Atlantic relationship.”Despite the storm clouds obscuring its future in the U.K., Huawei committed Thursday to invest $1.2 billion in a research and development center near the English city of Cambridge, drawing criticism from a former leader of the ruling Conservative party. It said the timing was coincidental and the plans had been in the works for years. Growing TensionThe issue is fraught in other European countries, too. The company is losing luster in Europe after winning contracts across the continent, said John Strand, a consultant based in Copenhagen.“Around Europe, there is a growing focus on the use of Chinese equipment including Huawei,” Strand said in an interview. “When it comes to Hong Kong, it obviously has an impact.”Strand predicted other countries would follow paths such as those taken by Denmark, where the biggest phone company TDC A/S in March chose Stockholm-based Ericsson AB to build its 5G network, rather that its existing supplier Huawei. Earlier, Energy Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt highlighted security considerations for 5G, without mentioning Huawei.Such moves would represent a change of momentum for a beleaguered U.S. campaign, said Justin Sherman, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s cyber-statecraft initiative.“There are many countries that have not done what the U.S. wanted,” including Germany, France and Italy, Sherman said. “There’s legitimate reason to be concerned about Huawei’s position on the 5G networks,” he said.U.S. diplomats say Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia Oyj build 5G gear and can be alternatives to Huawei. The European providers have struggled to compete with Huawei and ZTE Corp. equipment that’s often cheaper and at least as capable.“5G systems carry the most private information and intellectual property. It comes down to one question: Who do you trust?” Keith Krach, the U.S. undersecretary of state for economic affairs, said in an interview. “People are realizing that Huawei’s 5G is the backbone of that surveillance state.”U.S. officials point to progress in persuading allies, citing the European Union’s January adoption of a policy that said companies based in non-democratic countries could be excluded from parts of the network. The EU stopped short of an outright ban on Huawei.The German government is struggling to settle on rules that would require security certification for vendors in the 5G network. Earlier senior Chinese officials highlighted German car companies – the crown jewel of Europe’s biggest economy – as a potential target for retaliation if Huawei is banned from their markets. China is the biggest single market for Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler AG. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has resisted a blanket ban on Huawei from 5G networks.France won’t ban any equipment maker from its 5G network, but will seek to protect critical infrastructure, finance minister Bruno Le Maire said earlier this year. With a spectrum auction set for September, carriers including Bouygues SA await a decision from the French cyber security agency Anssi on whether Huawei can be part of their plans. In a tweet earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised France’s leading phone company Orange SA, calling it a “clean” telecom carrier after it picked “trusted” 5G equipment suppliers Nokia and Ericsson in January.Italy hasn’t moved against Huawei, though it has adopted rules to closely monitor telecommunications equipment suppliers, and scrutinize gear that comes from outside Europe. Italy has pursued a friendly approach with Chinese investors and especially with Huawei, which has poured money into the country, financing research centers, universities and schools.In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been stalling a decision on whether to ban Huawei from 5G wireless networks. Tensions between the two countries have been rising since Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request in late 2018. After her arrest, China put two Canadian citizens in jail, halted billions of dollars in Canadian imports and put two other Canadians on death row. On June 2, two major Canadian wireless companies -- BCE Inc. and Telus Corp. -- said they’d build out their 5G wireless networks with equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.India has allowed Huawei to participate in trials, but the company’s entry into the country’s 5G commercial network could be blocked as tensions persist following border clashes with China. India is the largest wireless market outside China by number of subscribers, and has been a focus for investment by Huawei.“The tide is turning against Huawei as citizens around the world are waking up to the danger of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state,” Pompeo said in a statement Wednesday.(Updates to add reference to U.K. development site in 19th paragraph. An earlier version of this story was corrected to fix the spelling of Huawei in fourth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Curve, the London fintech that is re-bundling various financial products by letting you consolidate all your bank cards into a single card and app, is partnering with Samsung in the U.K. to power its forthcoming debit card, which is scheduled to launch later this year. Dubbed "Samsung Pay Card" -- and obviously a bid by Samsung to better compete with Apple Wallet and Apple's own credit card launch -- the product is being described as a digital payment solution that will give Samsung customers "greater flexibility and control when managing their finances by offering a single view of spend, whilst also enabling a simple and secure way to pay." Notably, at one point in the press release the product is referred to as Samsung Pay Card "powered by Curve," pointing to a degree of co-branding.
The U.S. government is prepared to help finance in telecom companies in Brazil and other countries to acquire fifth-generation technology that is not provided by "untrusted" Chinese companies, its top diplomat in Brazil said on Tuesday. Ambassador Todd Chapman said Ericsson, Nokia Oyj and Samsung were companies that have successfully provided "appropriate" 5G technology that adequately protects information, data flows and intellectual property. The funding would come from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), a government agency that provides financing for private development projects, he said.
(Bloomberg) -- A top-performing fund manager who bought Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. more than a decade ago is betting on winners from the Covid-19, believing the pandemic will fundamentally change people’s lifestyles.Mark Urquhart, who helps manage Baillie Gifford & Co.’s Long-Term Global Growth Equity Fund, says he’s picking up companies that may benefit from the growing trend of online and stay-at-home services, as the prolonged spread of the coronavirus will eventually alter consumer behavior.“We’ve been looking at companies that can benefit in the long-term from changes,” said Urquhart, who works at the $245 billion Edinburgh-based firm. “What the virus has done is accelerated some of the changes, perhaps open people’s minds, to consuming in different ways. And they realize the convenience. The economy is being more flexible. We see these companies will be larger in 10 years.”The fund is beating 99% of peers in three-year annual returns and is ahead of 62% of them year to date with a gain of 37%, according to Bloomberg-compiled data.Along with Netflix Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd, the fund has bought Netherlands-based payments platform Adyen NV. Tencent-backed Chinese food delivery giant Meituan Dianping is also a favorite, as is interactive exercise firm Peloton Interactive Inc.Adyen is “a company that we think benefits from many of the ongoing trends of people shopping more remotely,” Urquhart said. “Consumers won’t recognize the brand, but it’s very important.”The fund’s high returns come from its bottom-up investing, with managers looking for industry disruptors. Top holding Amazon, which makes up 8.46% of the fund, was one of its initial picks when the fund was first initiated in 2005. The stock has risen 5,892% since then. Alphabet was added in 2008, followed by Tencent and Baidu Inc. in 2010, with Alibaba Group Holding added in 2015.In South Korea, Urquhart says he’s watching Softbank Group-backed e-commerce giant Coupang Corp., which is reported to be preparing an initial public offering as soon as 2021, rather than industrial stocks or conglomerates like Samsung Electronics Co.“I’m interested in Coupang, it’s a classic disrupting company,” he said. “We had held Samsung in the past, at the moment we don’t find growth prospect as attractive.”(Adds a super tout)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- Arm Ltd., the chip designer owned by SoftBank Group Corp., ousted the head of its Chinese venture after discovering the executive had set up an investing firm that would compete with its own business in China, according to people with direct knowledge of the decision.Arm China Chief Executive Officer Allen Wu established a fund called Alphatecture whose aim is to invest in companies that use Arm technology, said the people, who requested anonymity discussing a personnel decision. It’s common -- and legal -- for chip companies to use investment divisions to provide financial help to fledgling companies that can’t otherwise afford their typically pricey components. But the problem in Wu’s case is that Arm Ltd. and partner Hopu Investment Management Co., which together are major backers of the venture, already have one of these funds. Wu’s move put him in direct competition with his employers, the people said.The tussle between Wu and U.K.-based Arm Ltd. is playing out against the backdrop of escalating tension between China and the U.S. over leadership in key technologies. Arm Ltd., whose semiconductor designs underpin the majority of the world’s mobile devices, relies on Chinese companies including Huawei Technologies Co. for a large portion of its global revenue, and leans on Arm China to help it conduct business in the world’s biggest smartphone market.Arm China called the allegations against Wu’s fund “inaccurate and misleading.” “Arm China has been pursuing an innovative business model which has consisted in building an ecosystem of downstream businesses to support its growth. Investments associated to our ecosystem have not created any conflict to Arm China,” the unit said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg News.Read more: SoftBank’s Arm Says China CEO Fired for Major Irregularities (1)The rationale for Wu’s dismissal was also outlined in a document, reviewed by Bloomberg, from SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son and Arm Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Simon Segars to Hopu Chairman Fang Fenglei. The document cited breach of contract and the decision to set up the fund. Arm Ltd. and Hopu previously explained Wu’s dismissal by saying he was removed after an investigation uncovered rule violations and conflicts of interest that it didn’t specify. Bloomberg first reported the firing this month.What followed was a public, acrimonious clash between Arm Ltd. and Wu, who refused to budge and used the Chinese venture’s WeChat account to amplify his defiance. That Arm and Hopu have been unable to assert their will reflects the intricacies of Chinese rules that confer an advantage to Wu as the holder of key registration documents. As the legal representative of Arm China, Wu holds the company’s registration documents and the company seal, or stamp. Changing the legal representative requires taking possession of the company stamp -- something Wu has refused to give up. Arm Ltd. and Hopu could go through the courts, but the process could take years.Arm Ltd. and Hopu plan to use the document to lobby government officials in Beijing in what will be a test of China’s interest in reassuring overseas investors.Arm Ltd.’s management dispute constitutes another headache for SoftBank, which in May reported a record operating loss triggered by the writedown of portfolio companies at its Vision Fund arm. Many Vision Fund investments, including Uber Technologies Inc., tumbled in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed demand for ride hailing and other sharing economy players that Son has long favored.Read more: SoftBank’s Masa-Misra Partnership Strained by Losses, InfightingIn 2016, SoftBank bought Arm Ltd. -- which then operated under a different name -- for $32 billion, its second-largest acquisition after Sprint Corp., initially gaining full control over the Chinese subsidiary. SoftBank ceded a majority stake in 2018 and now owns 49% through Arm Ltd. The consortium that bought 51% of Arm China includes China Investment Corp., the Silk Road Fund and Singaporean state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte.Following the investigation of Wu by Arm Ltd. and Hopu, the Arm China board voted 7-1 to dismiss Wu. Given Wu’s refusal to vacate his role, Arm Ltd. is growing anxious over the security of Arm China’s intellectual property, assets and finances, according to the people with knowledge of the matter. If it can’t dislodge Wu in a timely manner, Arm Ltd. would consider suspending support to Arm China. Such a step would be a last resort, said the people.Arm Ltd. licenses the fundamentals of chips for companies that make their own semiconductors. It also sells processor designs and is trying to expand into servers and PCs. Arm typically maintains a low profile, licensing its designs and collecting royalties via consumer brand corporations from Apple Inc. to Samsung Electronics Co.The dispute over Wu’s status, however, thrust it into the spotlight, igniting a plethora of stories online about how the U.S.-educated executive was still Arm China’s legal head honcho. Wu himself was cited several times in local media pledging to work with Huawei Technologies last year, when Washington first banned the sale of American software and circuitry to the Chinese tech champion.Read more: Arm Offers Faster, Customizable Design to Help Android Phones(Updates with Arm China’s comments in from the fourth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.