Discover more from Asia Tech Review
ARM gives SoftBank an actual winner
And we are back from a long hiatus
It’s been a long break—the newsletter (and I) took a long hiatus during August as the school break ran to a close and that extended into September as I went to the Token 2049 event in Singapore.
But we’re back with a lot of Asia tech news, including Apple’s drama in China, ARM’s success for SoftBank (!) and why Indonesia has dampened TikTok’s big e-commerce move into the US.
Plug: I have a new newsletter focused on Web3 which I’m running with Gary Liu, the former CEO of SCMP among other things. I’d long considered writing about Web3, but this isn’t some insidery, red pilled affair. Instead, we look at interesting developments from the Web3 world for those who might be sceptical or unfamiliar with it and unpack the good, bad and (sometimes) ugly.
It’s weekly and free—check out our work so far below and sign up if you like it:
That’s all for this week—see you next Monday!
News in focus
ARM finally went public at a valuation of $60B—a big jump on the $32B valuation that SoftBank (which owns 90% of shares) got when it took the firm private in 2016. Despite a tough market, ARM traded up more than 20%.
ARM sold $735 million in shares to investors that included customers Apple, Google, Nvidia, Samsung, AMD, Intel, Cadence, Synopsis, Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. Its CFO joked that its best selling products, which are decades old, are a little like the Beatles catalogue as they continue to sell well.
There’s hope that the deal might open the window for other listings and a more active market, but that remains to be seen.
As for SoftBank, it is on the hunt for deals in artificial intelligence, including a potential investment in OpenAI, after the blockbuster listing.
Reports suggest that some government agencies have issued directives forbidding staff from using Apple’s iPhones for work. If true, this would mark a major flashpoint in tensions which have seen Chinese state authorities warn against, threaten to remove and, in cases, ban use of US technologies. Apple had, until now, avoided such hits.
China denied implementing a ban on iPhones, but a spokesperson for the foreign ministry did hint at media reports relating to unspecified security issues within the Apple devices.
Still, there’s concern that any ban is retaliation against America’s continued sanctions aimed at weakening China’s position in key tech areas such as semiconductors and AI. That’s the view from the White House, at least.
Apple has kept quiet for now, as has been its strategy when dealing with (many) sensitive topics in China over the years.
ByteDance has finally joined Shein and Temu in bringing its low-priced e-commerce business to the US market to take on Amazon, Walmart and others.
TikTok Shop arrived last week after months of testing with reports already suggesting that it is planning a series of deep discount promotions around the US holiday season in October. As with its Chinese rivals, there are already reports and concerns that TikTok Shop is packed full of cheap Chinese goods.
Yet, while the American move is happening, there’s uncertainty in Indonesia, which has been TikTok Shop’s hottest market so far. Indonesia, which has blazed a trail for ‘social commerce’ beyond TikTok, is planning to ban the sale of items over social media, according to the country’s deputy trade minister.
The exact reasons or plans are not yet clear, but Indonesia recently banned sales of cheap imported goods. Back in July, the Ministry of Trade outlawed overseas sales of products priced under $100 in a bid to boost local sellers. The moves may be related.
An EU panel fined TikTok €345M for failing to implement child settings link
TikTok and the US have rekindled negotiations after threats of a ban 6 months ago link
And, of course, Byju’s
The Byju’s garbage fire continues to burn:
The company’s notoriety jumped after Bloomberg reported that it “hid” $533M in a 3-year-old hedge fund that was registered to an IHOP diner outlet in Miami, according to a new lawsuit filed by lenders
The company has reportedly put two of its key assets—US-based kids learning app Epic and Great Learning, a higher education and upskilling business—on sale with the view to raising a combined $900M+ to help clear a $1.2 billion loan
A deep (and technical) analysis on why the rise of China’s AI and semiconductor chip industries mean US sanctions aimed at stymying both have failed—a big focus is Huawei’s recently announced Kirin 9000S chipset link
Put simply, Kirin 9000S is a better designed chip than the West realizes. It has solid power and performance. Even with the lackluster export controls, this is a leading edge chip that would be near the front of the pack in 2021, yet was done with no access to EUV, no access to cutting edge US IP, and intentionally hampered. We cannot overstate how scary this is.
Daniel Zhang, the former CEO of Alibaba Group and a 16-year company veteran, has left Alibaba’s cloud business in a surprise move ahead of the unit’s planned spinout and IPO link
Didi’s quarterly revenue jumped 53% year-on-year to reach $6.65B as it emerged from Covid—the firm’s net loss was $42M, down from $125M in Q1 link
Ant Group announced an AI tool for wealth management and insurance link
China used AI to sow disinformation about Hawaii fires, according to researchers from Microsoft and other organisations link
Alibaba has opened its s AI model Tongyi Qianwen to the public—Oppo and Zhejiang University are among the organisations that will put it to use in training or development link
Huawei and Xiaomi announced a global patent cross-licensing deal, ending their legal stalemate and fuelling moves into premium handsets link
China’s tech, media and telecoms IPOs fall in first half of 2023, but new capital market policies and the nation’s economic recovery are likely to boost sector’s outlook—according to a PwC report link
Apple will sell made-in-India iPhones on launch day for first time link
Apple adds support for India’s GPS alternative NavIC to iPhone 15 Pro link
India will reconsider allowing local firms to list on foreign exchanges, including the London Stock Exchange, according to its finance minister link
Hyperlocal weather forecasters are now online influencers in India—some are replacing government weather departments, which lack the manpower and funds to focus on making localised predictions link
Perfios, which provides real-time credit underwriting solutions to banks and non-banking financial institutions, raised $229M link
Coinbase is stopping all services for Indian users, just a year after its much-hyped relaunch link
Kale Logistics raised $30M to make a global push for its SaaS platform that assists logistics needs link
KKR increased its stake in Reliance Retail with $250M at a valuation of $100B link
China’s Honor returns to the Indian smartphone market link
Koo, Indian X/Twitter alternative, seeks strategic partner amid funding crunch link
Good news for startups as Vertex Ventures, a fund backed by Singapore’s Temasek, closed a fresh $541M fund link
Thai bank Kasikorn has gone official with a new $100M fund for Web3 and AI link
Parallax, a Philippines-based startup that uses crypto and stablecoins for cross-border payments, raised $4.5M link
The US is racing to source chips from Vietnam but the country needs many more chip specialists—currently there are about 5,000, a quarter of the expected demand in the next 5 years link
One of Myanmar’s largest and most powerful ethnic minority militias has arrested and repatriated more than 1,200 Chinese nationals allegedly involved in criminal online scam operations link
GlobalFoundries opened its new $4B Singapore chip fabrication plant link
USDC stablecoin issuer Circle expands its Asia focus in push to enter the region’s flourishing payments ecosystem link
Taiwan’s TSMC puts hopes in new Japan chip fab amid frustration with US plant in Arizona link
Much-hyped but underwhelming game Final Fantasy XVI has costs Square Enix around $2B in market value link
TSMC has told its major suppliers to delay the delivery of high-end chipmaking equipment, as the world's top contract chipmaker grows increasingly nervous about customer demand link
Rest of Asia—worryingly all cyber espionage…
North Korea-backed hackers are targeting security researchers with a zero-day exploit and related malware link
The Sri Lankan government lost months of data following a ransomware attack link
Researchers say hackers attacked the national power grid of an unspecified Asian country earlier this year using malware typically deployed by personnel connected to China’s government link