News roundup: July - August

Asia Outlook makes its away around Asia Pacific in seven stories

TECHNOLOGY

Huawei testing smartphone using own operating system

Chinese tech giant Huawei is developing a smartphone using its own operating system, according to its state-ran media organisation Global Times.

Named Hongmeng, the new operating system will be part of a phone priced at around $290, the move being seen by some commentators as a useful one if the US government decides to restrict access to Google’s Android.

Despite the widely covered tensions with the Trump administration, Huawei saw profits grow by 23 percent in H1 2019, owed largely to strong domestic demand for its products. Although sales overseas have dropped markedly, shipments within China soared by 31 percent in Q2 this year.

 

MANUFACTURING

South Korea targets self-sufficiency for 100 imported products

The South Korean government has unveiled a $6.5 billion plan to boost homegrown R&D in a bid to curb reliance in importing certain goods from neighbouring countries such as Japan.

Up to 100 key components and materials used to make chips, displays batteries, vehicles and other products are being targeted, the country looking to become self-sufficient in producing such items in as little as five years.

Sung Yun-mo, South Korea’s industry minister, said at a press briefing: “We want to turn the crisis into an opportunity for the materials, parts and equipment industry.”

 

GOVERNMENT

Japan and US target trade deal by September

Authorities from Japan and the USA are planning to strike a bilateral trade deal by September.

The two countries have struggled to agree on tariffs covering certain goods, particularly regarding beef and automobiles, with US President Donald Trump eager to reverse what he describes as an imbalanced global trading arena.

Japan is seeking an abolition of American tariffs on industrial goods such as car components, while the US wants its negotiating counterpart to open up its revered beef sector, namely by reducing the 38.5 percent levy it imposes on beef imports.

 

CONSTRUCTION

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company to launch China division

Tesla founder Elon Musk has revealed on Twitter that his tunnelling company will launch in China when he attends the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai at the end of August.

The Boring Company, which was set up to build underground tunnels for hyperloop transport systems, hopes to reduce traffic congestion by encouraging cities to go underground.

By decreasing the diameter of tunnels and increasing the speed at which their enormous tunnel boring machines operate, the firm says it can make such an option more viable than alternatives which include the likes of flying taxis. At the moment, it says some tunnelling projects can cost as much as $1 billion per mile.

 

RETAIL

Amazon reportedly in talks to buy Reliance Retail

Global ecommerce firm Amazon is weighing up the possibility of acquiring Indian bricks and mortar brand Reliance Retail.

The American giant is reportedly in talks with Reliance Industries Limited about a possible deal, which would see the two provide heightened competition to Walmart, which last ploughed $16 billion into Flipkart.

Reliance is controlled by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, who is well-connected politically and could be a useful lobbying asset for Amazon. For Reliance, a tie up with Amazon would allow it to leverage the immense online platform for its 40 or so grocery product brands.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

Foxtel agrees content sharing deal with Netflix 

Australian broadcaster Foxtel has struck an agreement with Netflix which will see it embedded into its set-top boxes.

It is the first time that Foxtel customers will be able to access content distributed by the American streaming company, part of what the Aussie firm is dubbing The New Foxtel Experience.

CEO Patrick Delany said: “I can’t think of a better streaming partner to kick off The New Foxtel Experience than Netflix.

“The new customer interface puts two entertainment powerhouses together providing Foxtel customers with access to Netflix service alongside our Foxtel Originals and programs from HBO, FX, the BBC and more.”

 

ENERGY & UTILITIES

Shell to install solar roofing on plants in India, China and Singapore

Oil and gas major Shell has committed to installing solar-powered rooftops on seven of its factories across Europe and Asia.

The commitment, which will see 7,500 megawatt hours of electricity generated by the installations a year, covers facilities in India, China and Singapore, and will save the equivalent of around 4,500 tonnes of CO2 a year, which equates to taking 2,600 cars off the road.

Richard Jory, Shell's Vice President, Lubricants Supply Chain, added: “Every industry has to do its part in developing cleaner ways of working and this is part of our commitment to run a safe, efficient, responsible and profitable business.”