Tencent valued over $500B

JIAXING, CHINA – NOVEMBER 16: A speech about WeChat Ecosystem Innovation by Tencent is delivered during the Release Ceremony for World Leading Internet Scientific and Technological Achievements as part of the 3rd World Internet Conference (WIC) at Wuzhen Internet International Conference and Exhibition Center on November 16, 2016 in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province of China. The 3rd World Internet Conference (WIC) – Wuzhen Summit kicks off at Wuzhen township on Wednesday and will last to Nov 18, in Zhejiang Province. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Tencent has become the first Chinese company to be valued at more than $500 billion.

Shares of the 19-year-old company, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, rallied to reach HK$418.80 to give it a market cap of HK$3.99 trillion which takes past the $500 billion mark. Close rival Alibaba is Asia’s second-highest-valued firm at $474 billion.

Entry to the half-a-trillion-dollar club — which includes Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon — comes a week after Tencent posted a profit of 18 billion RMB ($2.7 billion) on revenue of 65.2 billion RMB ($9.8 billion) for Q3 2017. Overall profit was up 69 percent year-on-year and revenue rose by 61 percent thanks to Tencent’s games business

As SCMP pointed out, a US$9,000 investment in the company’s 2004 IPO would now be worth US$1 million.

Just looking at the last twelve months alone, Tencent’s share price has doubled thanks to impressive earnings reports like Q3.

Tencent’s market cap has more than tripled since March 2014 when it reached $150 billion, surpassing Intel in the process. Writing then, The Wall Street Journal opined that the company “isn’t yet a household name in the U.S., but it should be” and that still applies today.

WeChat, its messaging app that is China’s top social service, is closing in on one billion users overall but it has not managed to replicate that success overseas. Tencent has instead focused on investing itself into global positions.

Its lucrative gaming business focuses on PC and mobile and is the heartbeat of revenue, accounting for $5 billion in the last quarter alone, thanks to smash hits like Honour Of Kings, 2017’s top grossing game, and the acquisition of the companies behind hit games Clash Of Clans (Supercell) and League Of Legends (Riot Games).

Tencent’s investment focus seems to have gone into overdrive over the last year. It has bought up stakes in public companies Tesla, Snap, invested in India-based unicorns Flipkart, messaging app Hike, health portal Practo and Uber rival Ola. Other earlier-stage deals include flying cars, lunar drones and asteroid mining, while longer-standing investments like Sogou (search) and China Literature (e-publishing) have gone public over the past month.

If the recent Snap and Tesla deals are anything to go by, Tencent is likely to commit considerable resources to developing a base among U.S. tech companies. Not only does it believe it can learn from their experiences to boost its business in China, but it can add fresh perspective too — particularly around messaging/WeChat.

Source: TechCrunch

Apple is looking into reports of iPhone 8 batteries swelling

Reports from a few iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus buyers have suggested there could be an issue with the battery inside some of the devices swelling, causing the case of Apple’s new iPhone to split open and expose the smartphone’s internals.

Apple has now confirmed it is looking into it, although a spokeswoman declined to comment further when asked how many devices are affected.

From what we’ve heard the number of reports so far is very few.

Yesterday CNET rounded up the handful of reports that have emerged — saying there are at least six different reports in at least five countries of the iPhone 8 splitting along its seams.

Today Reuters also noted a report in Chinese state media of an iPhone buyer claiming a newly purchased iPhone 8 Plus arrived cracked open on October 5, though apparently without any signs of scorching or an explosion.

Apple rival Samsung had big problems with smartphone batteries in its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. In that instance some Note 7 batteries caught fire, and the problem was extensive enough that it led Samsung to recall all Note 7 handsets — at great expense.

In the case of the iPhone 8 the issue appears to be limited to batteries bloating/swelling, rather than catching fire — at least as reported so far.

Although the phone only went on sale on September 22 so it’s still early days for the device.

Apple did not release figures for the first weekend sales of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, as it has in the past with new iPhones, so it’s also not yet clear how many of these handsets are in the hands of buyers at this point.

Some analysts have suggested consumers may be holding off on upgrading their iPhone to buy the top-of-the-range iPhone X, which Apple also announced at the same time, but with a later release date.

Pre-sales for the iPhone X are due to begin on October 27, with the handset slated to ship on November 3.

Source: TechCrunch

Say goodbye to gasoline – China’s going electric

China’s auto industry plan released in April envisages new energy vehicles – including electric and hybrids – making up all the future sales growth in the country. — Reuters

China, one-third of the world’s car market, is working on a timetable to end sales of fossil-fuel-based vehicles, the country’s vice minister of industry and information technology, Xin Guobin, told an industry forum in Tianjin on Saturday. That would probably see the country join Norway, France and the UK in switching to a wholly electric fleet within the lifetime of most current drivers.

The announcement is important because the most influential players in the global auto market have always been not companies, but governments. Diesel cars make up about half of the market in the European Union and less than a percentage point in the US, largely because of different fuel-taxation and emissions regimes. Carburetors have been regulated out of most developed markets because fuel injection – originally a more costly technology — results in less tailpipe pollution.

Moves toward electrification of the world’s cars have been tentative. Just 695,000 electric vehicles were sold in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, equivalent to about three days of sales in an 84 million-strong market. Including those already on the roads, the global car fleet is roughly a billion-strong.

At the same time, the direction of travel is unambiguous. China’s auto industry plan released in April envisages new energy vehicles – including electric and hybrids – making up all the future sales growth in the country. With conventional cars plateauing at current levels, new-energy vehicle sales will reach seven million annually in 2025. As many as 800,000 charging stations will be built this year alone, according to the official China Daily. Government mandates will require manufacturers to sell 8% of their vehicles with electric or hybrid powertrains from next year, or purchase credits to make up the difference, rising to 20% by 2025.

India, due to overtake Germany and then Japan as the world’s third-biggest auto market by 2020, is on a similar path. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s think-tank Niti Aayog aims to get electric vehicles to 44 percent of the fleet by 2030, and is aggressively favoring them with tax rates 31 percentage points below those on hybrids and internal-combustion-engine cars under its new harmonised GST sales tax.

France and the UK, the world’s sixth- and seventh-biggest markets, are planning to phase out sales of non-electric cars by 2040, while tiny Norway aims to reach that line 10 years earlier. Neither of those targets looks especially ambitious, given the rapid drop in battery costs: In the US and EU, electric cars will reach price parity with conventional vehicles in terms of purchase and running costs around the mid-2020s, according to BNEF. The International Energy Agency believes the use of oil in passenger cars has already more or less peaked, with just 7% of demand growth by 2040 coming from the sector.

The pattern will accelerate as major automakers dedicate more of their research and development budgets – and, subsequently, lobbying funds – to the EV transition. Until the first Tesla Inc. Roadster went on sale just nine years ago, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. was the only major car company to take the prospect of fully electric vehicles seriously. Now, every large automaker is working on battery-powered cars, with even longstanding skeptics like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Sergio Marchionne and Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s RC Bhargava announcing plans in recent weeks.
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For all the eye-catching symbolism of a ban, it’s unlikely that fossil fuel will soon be illegal on the roads. Gasoline and diesel cars will still be sold in 2040, and probably 2050 and 2100 as well. But with an increasing cost disadvantage and growing infrastructure issues, as gas stations close or go electric, internal-combustion engines will be sold only to enthusiasts – like high-performance sports cars, kit cars and vintage cars are today.

The conventional car isn’t quite dead yet – but its years are numbered. — Bloomberg

Source: The Star Online

Xiaomi is world’s top wearable maker for first time as Fitbit sales slide

Xiaomi’s good run has continued after a research firm found that the Chinese firm has ranked top for sales of wearable devices worldwide for the first. Sales of Fitbit devices, meanwhile, plunged by 40 percent

Coming off the back of Xiaomi’s reentry into the world’s top five smartphone sellers, a new Strategy Analytics report found that it leapfrogged Apple and Fitbit to become the top seller of wearables in Q2 2017 with 3.7 million units shipped. Fitbit logged 3.4 million shipments during the quarter with Apple coming in at 2.8 million — the U.S. firm actually posted higher sales growth than Xiaomi. The rest of the field was responsible for a further 11.7 million units, or 54 percent of all wearables shipped during the quarter.

Xiaomi and Apple both grew their marketshare year-on-year (from 15 percent to 17 percent, and nine percent to 13 percent, respectively), but Fitbit’s share cratered from 29 percent to 16 percent.

Both Xiaomi and Apple take very different approaches to wearables. Xiaomi has a wide range of products that are priced competitively and feature heart-rate monitors and alerts — the Mi Band is priced as low as $14.99 in the U.S. — while the Apple Watch, at upwards of $269, is a more premium approach that’s packed with a fuller set of features. While they both stand for something at different ends of the market, Fitbit’s position is less certain.

“Fitbit is at risk of being trapped in a pincer movement between the low-end fitness bands sold by Xiaomi and the fitness-led, high-end smartwatches sold by Apple,” Strategy Analytics’ Neil Mawston said in a statement.

As for the other two, Strategy Analytics said reports that the next Apple Watch may include extended health tracking capabilities could help Apple reclaim the top spot. But for now its lack of health band options is what the firm believes is keeping Xiaomi ahead, the firm concluded.

Xiaomi has had a resurgent 2017 so far, bouncing back from two disappointing years in which it struggled to maintain once-explosive growth and missed sales targets. A push into offline retail in China and progress in India, where the company cracked $1 billion in revenue last year, have contributed to a more optimistic outlook this year, with CEO Lei Jun claiming it has reached “a major inflection point in its growth.”

The company said its phone sales were up 70 percent quarter-on-quarter in Q2 with 23 million sold in Q2. Now it is pushing on with its offline retail strategy and furthering its global expansion plan thanks to a $1 billion loan that was secured last month.

Source: TechCrunch

‘Dronejacking’ may be the next big cyber threat

Next targets: Companies like Amazon, DHL and UPS are expected to use drones for package deliveries – becoming potential targets for criminals, the report said. — Deutsche Post/DHL

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WASHINGTON: A big rise in drone use is likely to lead to a new wave of “dronejackings” by cybercriminals, security experts warned.

A report by Intel’s McAfee Labs said hackers are expected to start targeting drones used for deliveries, law enforcement or camera crews, in addition to hobbyists.

”Drones are well on the way to becoming a major tool for shippers, law enforcement agencies, photographers, farmers, the news media, and more,” said Intel Security’s Bruce Snell, in the company’s annual threat report.

Snell said the concept of dronejacking was demonstrated at a security conference last year, where researchers showed how someone could easily take control of a toy drone.

”Although taking over a kid’s drone may seem amusing and not that big of an issue, once we look at the increase in drone usage potential problems starts to arise,” he said.

The report noted that many consumer drones lack adequate security, which makes it easy for an outside hacker to take control.

Companies like Amazon and UPS are expected to use drones for package deliveries – becoming potential targets for criminals, the report said.

”Someone looking to ‘dronejack’ deliveries could find a location with regular drone traffic and wait for the targets to appear,” the report said.

”Once a package delivery drone is overhead, the drone could be sent to the ground, allowing the criminal to steal the package.”

The researchers said criminals may also look to steal expensive photographic equipment carried by drones, to knock out surveillance cameras used by law enforcement.

Intel said it expects to see dronejacking “toolkits” traded on “dark web” marketplaces in 2017.

”Once these toolkits start making the rounds, it is just a matter of time before we see stories of hijacked drones showing up in the evening news,” the report said.

Other predictions in the report included a decrease in so-called “ransomware” attacks as defences improve, but a rise in mobile attacks that enable cyber thieves to steal bank account or credit card information.

The report also noted that cybercriminals will begin using more sophisticated artificial intelligence or “machine learning” techniques and employ fake online ads. — AFP

Source: The Star Online

Asia-Pacific Gateway 54Tbps subsea cable completes construction

NEC has announced the completion of the Asia-Pacific Gateway (APG) subsea cable between China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore, which provides capacity of more than 54 terabits per second.

The APG fibre-optic submarine cable — owned by a consortium of telecommunications carriers including China’s China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile; Japan’s NTT Communications; South Korea’s KT Corporation and LG Uplus; Singapore’s StarHub; Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom; Thailand’s CAT; Malaysia’s Global Transit Communications; and Vietnam’s Viettel and VNPT — stretches 10,900km across the region.

“NEC is honoured to have been selected as the supplier for APG,” Shunichiro Tejima, executive vice president and head of the Telecom Carrier Business Unit at NEC, said.

“We hope to see our partnership with the consortium further enhanced through NEC’s ability to provide real-time technical support for the operation and maintenance of this advanced submarine cable.”

Back in 2012, Facebook also invested an undisclosed amount into the APG in order to “help support our growth in South Asia, making it possible for us to provide a better user experience for a greater number of Facebook users in countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Singapore”.

Telecommunications carriers and consortiums are racing to build out subsea cable capacity across the Asia-Pacific region, driven by the rapid increase in data usage globally.

Australia’s incumbent telco Telstra acquired a 36,000km cable network system connecting China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines as part of purchasing Pacnet for $697 million in December 2014, and is also involved in a number of submarine cable projects: In May, it announced the Bay of Bengal Gateway (BBG) 8,000km 100Gbps submarine cable system, made up of three fibre pairs, which will connect Singapore, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Telstra, Singaporean telco Singtel, and Australian company SubPartners in March also entered a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to construct a high-capacity Perth-to-Singapore subsea cable. The cable, named APX-West, will be 4,500km long, with two fibre pairs providing a minimum of 10Tbps capacity each pair and two-way data transmission, expected to be complete by 2018.

In September, Nextgen and Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks activated the $139 million North West Cable System (NWCS), now owned by Vocus Communications, a 2,100km fibre-optic submarine cable between Darwin and Port Headland.

The Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) project, also acquired by Vocus after originally being a AU$170 million 50-50 joint-venture deal between Vocus and Nextgen, involves constructing a 100Gbps 4,600km subsea cable connecting Perth to Singapore and Indonesia.

The AU$400 million Trident subsea cable, backed by Beijing Construction and Engineering Group with the support of the China Development Bank, will connect the west coast of Australia with Singapore via Indonesia, and is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2018. It has a bandwidth of 28Tbps utilising 100Gbps coherent dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, which is upgradeable to 400Gbps.

In April, the 14,000km 30Tbps capacity Hawaiki Submarine Cable connecting Australia and New Zealand to Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States also commenced construction, with an expected completion date of mid-2018.

The “FASTER” 10,000km subsea cable system connecting Japan with the west coast of the United States, consisting of six fibre pairs and making use of 10Gbps wave technology, is also being built, as is the Southern Cross Cable Network between California and Sydney.

Source: ZDNet