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from Breakingviews:

China web giants take the fight offline in 2014

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By Robyn Mak

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Remember when every offline company was desperate to become an online one? In China, it’s happening the other way round. The country’s internet giants are making forays into traditional industries, from logistics to consumer electronics. The pace will increase, but what starts as disruption could turn into overreach.

China’s internet is young, but already concentrated. Although three contenders, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu, dominate the market, keeping and adding users is a constant battle. Gaming group Tencent has a social network of 626 million users a month, but its video streaming site ranked just sixth in September in terms of monthly viewers, according to comScore. To boost traffic, the gaming firm outbid rivals for licensed content and produced its own shows. An acquisition in the film industry would not be a surprise — LeTV, China’s number two video portal, bought a TV production studio in October.

The other two tech giants are also investing offline to get more face-time with potential web users. Alibaba the e-commerce group announced a HK$2.8 billion investment with an electronics and logistics group in December. Search engine operator Baidu has partnered with manufacturers on smartphones and wearable devices to promote its cloud platform. An investment by a web group in one of the region’s struggling handset makers – say, HTC – is not unthinkable.

from Breakingviews:

Sony stumble gives Loeb headache and opportunity

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By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist.  The opinions expressed are his own.

Sony may have given Dan Loeb a headache - and an opportunity. The Japanese group’s quarterly loss knocked almost 12 percent off its market value by midday on Nov. 1 and raised questions about the company’s revival. Poor results from Sony’s entertainment and electronics arms suggest there’s limited upside from the spinoff that activist investor Loeb proposed earlier this year. However, it may give him a chance to push for more radical restructuring.

from Breakingviews:

Tokyo Electron takeover is no template for Japan

By Una Galani
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Foreign acquirers have long-struggled to make headway in Japan. That makes Applied Material’s recent takeover of Tokyo Electron an interesting case study. The U.S. tech firm wooed its smaller rival with an all-stock merger and the promise of shared governance. However, the model may not work so easily elsewhere.

from Breakingviews:

Sony brush-off won’t end Dan Loeb campaign

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By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The tussle over Sony may be the most courteous shareholder battle ever. Back in May, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb respectfully suggested the company spin off a stake in its entertainment arm. Now the Japanese group’s board has politely rejected the idea. But the activist appears to be digging in for the long haul.

from Global Investing:

Amid yen weakness, some Asian winners

Asian equity markets tend to be casualties of weak yen. That has generally been the case this time too, especially for South Korea.

Data from our cousins at Lipper offers some evidence to ponder, with net outflows from Korean equity funds at close to $700 million in the first three months of the year. That's the equivalent of about 4 percent of the total assets held by those funds. The picture was more stark for Taiwan funds, for whom a similar net outflow equated to almost 10 percent of total AuM. Look more broadly though and the picture blurs; Asia ex-Japan equity funds have seen net inflows of more than $3 billion in the first three months of the year, according to Lipper data.

from Global Investing:

Korean exporters’ yen nightmare (corrected)

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(corrects name of hedge fund in para 3 to Symphony Financial Partners)

Any doubt about the importance of a weaker yen in thawing the frozen Japanese economy will have been dispelled by the Nikkei's surge to 32-month highs this week. Since early December, when it became clear an incoming Shinzo Abe administration would do its best to weaken the yen, the equity index has surged as the yen has fallen.

Those moves are giving sleepless nights to Japan's neighbours who are watching their own currencies appreciate versus the yen. South Korean companies, in particular, from auto to electronics manufacturers, must be especially worried. They had a fine time in recent years  as the yen's strength since 2008 allowed them to gain market share overseas. But since mid-2012, the won has appreciated 22 percent versus the yen.  In this period, MSCI Korea has lagged the performance of MSCI Japan by 20 percent. Check out the following graphic from my colleague Vincent Flasseur (@ReutersFlasseur)

from MediaFile:

Sony’s case of iPad 3 launch envy

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Sony, in a bout of bad timing, is hosting an event on March 7 in San Francisco for tech reporters at the same time as Apple's reported iPad 3 unveiling and the Japanese conglomerate wants to make sure it won't get ditched.

Sony, which some people consider to be the "Apple of the '80s", sent out a helpful e-mail on Tuesday informing invited members of the press of the scheduling conflict without mentioning the world's most valuable tech company. 

from Africa News blog:

Must we see rape in Britain to understand rape in Congo?

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I was left somewhat traumatised after going to see a screening of a controversial new Hollywood-backed short released this week, aimed at highlighting the link between minerals mined for British mobile phones and the use of rape and murder as weapons of war in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The highly graphic campaign video - appropriately called Unwatchable - starts with a little English girl picking flowers in the garden of her family’s multi-million pound mansion in a picturesque Cotswolds village.

from DealZone:

Auto insurer launches virtual toolbox

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nationwide-mobile-screenshot-1Auto insurer Nationwide has joined businesses such as Kraft Foods, eBay and Amazon.com in developing applications that customers can access on Apple's popular iPhone.

While Kraft's iFood Assistant offers recipes and shopping lists for consumers, Nationwide's application gives policyholders instant tools to help deal with some of the calls and paperwork that follow a vehicle bust-up, including access to tow truck service, and getting a claim started.

from MacroScope:

Das sinking sound

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Europe's leaders can no longer rely on the argument that German resilience will cushion the blow to the continent from the worst global recession in just about anyone's living memory.

Germany's economy, Europe's largest, is now officially confirmed as the basket case of Europe, thanks to a plunge in demand for high-tech goods, stagnant domestic demand, and a strong currency.

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