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IBM, Wanda form cloud JV in China; Telekom Malaysia, Axiata eye merger

TOP NEWS

* IBM Corp. is forming a new company with Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd. unit Wanda Internet Technology Group to provide cloud services to Chinese companies, the tech giant announced. The new Wanda Cloud Co. will deploy to Chinese businesses certain technologies using select IBM cloud infrastructure and platform-as-a-service offerings.

* A merger between Malaysian telco operators Telekom Malaysia and Axiata Group Berhad is currently being planned, The Star Online reports, citing sources. Each company has reportedly hired advisers on the transaction. The deal comes at a time when pressure to consolidate is mounting in Malaysia's rapidly converging telecom market.

PAN-ASIAN NEWS

* Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed tech startup Garena, which operates in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, is planning to launch a U.S. IPO in the second half of 2017, the Financial Times reports, citing two people with knowledge of the matter. The Singapore-based online games and e-commerce company, recently valued at US$3.75 billion, has reportedly appointed Goldman Sachs as lead adviser.

JAPAN

* Japan's government said it was not considering a rescue of financially crippled Toshiba Corp. but that it is closely monitoring the sale of Toshiba's profitable chip business, according to Reuters. Meanwhile, Kyodo News reported that the chip spinoff, Toshiba Memory Corp., may be backed by public funds through an investment from a consortium including state-backed Innovation Network Corp. of Japan and the state-owned Development Bank of Japan. The investment would be intended to keep key technology out of foreign hands, according to the report.

* Sony Corp. announced it will soon end Japanese production of its last remaining PlayStation 3 model, heralding the end of the game console that launched in 2006. The company did not set a date or indicate when global deliveries of the console would terminate.

* Strong demand is prompting Nintendo to at least double its production of the new Switch game console this fiscal year, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company is now aiming for production of 16 million units in the year ending March 2018.

SOUTH KOREA

* The bribery trial of Samsung Group's de facto leader Lee Jae-yong has been reassigned to another judge, Reuters reports, citing a Seoul Central District Court spokesperson. The decision reportedly came a day after the previous judge's father-in-law was accused of being a financial sponsor of Choi Soon-sil, the confidante of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye and a key figure in the influence-peddling scandal that led to Park's impeachment and Lee's indictment.

* SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won was questioned for 13 hours by prosecutors over the company's involvement in the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of former president Park, The Korea Times reports. SK reportedly gave more than 11.1 billion won to foundations controlled by Choi Soon-sil.

* South Korean internet company Naver Corp. will invest 100 billion won in entertainment agency YG Entertainment Inc., 50 billion won in the agency and 50 billion won in its subsidiary YG Investment Fund, Money Today reports. The investment is intended to support Korean content creators, which will in turn support the company's global platforms, such as live-streaming service V Live.

* Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s next flagship smartphone to be unveiled March 29, will come with a new button for the company's future artificial intelligence assistant Bixby, ET News reports.

* South Korean telco SK Telecom Co. Ltd. opened the IoT Open House, a support center to help Internet of Things startups develop and market products, ZDNet Korea reports. The incubator will reportedly provide users with office space, testing facilities, and quality-control staff, as well as quarterly training programs for emerging companies.

* South Korean entertainment company CJ E&M held the KCON 2017 Mexico convention to promote South Korean pop culture and lifestyle in Mexico City, attracting about 33,000 visitors, iNews24 reports. The event was designed to be a stepping stone to enter the Latin American market, and the company also plans to run a similar event in Oceania this year.

CHINA, HONG KONG and TAIWAN

* Viacom Inc. and its Paramount Pictures unit are in talks with China's Shanghai Film Group and Huahua Media to save their US$1 billion co-financing deal with the companies amid concerns regarding "uncertainty over Paramount's leadership" and China's move to restrict investments in Hollywood, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

* Apple Inc. plans to establish two more research centers in the eastern Chinese cities of Shanghai and Suzhou, Bloomberg News reports, citing a company statement. The iPhone maker has already announced plans to open facilities in Beijing and the southern city of Shenzhen. All four centers are scheduled to open later in 2017.

* China blocked Western social media site Pinterest Inc from the the country's internet, making it unavailable for the past week, Techcrunch reports, citing data from censorship monitoring organization GreatFire. The photo-sharing site has been one of the few Western social media sites that was freely accessible in China.

* Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts Limited will upgrade its over-the-top platform TVB Anywhere, Variety reports. TVB Anywhere is being positioned for the global market, with an upgrade set to launch in June. The broadcaster is also teaming up with Tencent Holdings' Penguin Pictures and Baidu Inc.'s online video platform iQiyi to co-produce new dramas for TVB's content library.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is planning to establish its regional distribution hub in Malaysia, Reuters reports, citing two sources familiar with the matter. Alibaba chairman Jack Ma and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak are expected to make the announcement at an event in Kuala Lumpur.

* A subsea cable that connects Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand has been launched, Telecom Asia reports. The 1,300-kilometer MCT cable system adds at least 30 Tbps worth of capacity to the region and will link to other subsea cable systems such as the Asia-America Gateway.

* Google Inc.'s Thailand unit will begin offering small and medium-sized enterprises free mobile website design services in return for signing up to the company's mobile ad service platform, Krungthep Turakij reports. Currently only 10% of Thailand's 2.7 million SMEs have company websites.

* Alibaba unit Lazada Group will offer logistics and e-payments training to 30,000 Thai SMEs in 2017 as part of the government's Thailand 4.0 plan for a new digital economy, Krungthep Turakij reports. Lazada will also work closely with Thailand Post to improve e-commerce logistics and cross-border sales, and it will train 10,000 state officials in digital marketing.

* Thailand's National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission generated more than 120 million baht in state revenue in a two-day auction of auspicious mobile numbers, Prachachat reports. A total of 200 mobile numbers were auctioned, consisting of 50 numbers containing seven consecutive identical digits, and 150 numbers containing six consecutive identical digits.

* Ride-hailing app vehicles in Indonesia will need to use special Motor Vehicle Number Marking, or TNKB, to make law enforcement on the roads easier, Indotelko reports. The government also plans to introduce a price ceiling and a price floor for the ride-hailing apps.

* Thai telecom regulator NBTC will increase the number of its provincial offices from 14 to 25 by the end of 2018, the Bangkok Post reports. The move is part of an ongoing restructuring program aimed at increasing the NBTC's efficiency in monitoring telecom services and regulatory issues outside of Bangkok.

AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND

* Australian advertisers will closely monitor a U.K. boycott of Google ads, The Australian Financial Review reports. This comes after the U.K. government and major brands pulled ads from the tech giant's platform after they were allegedly placed alongside offensive content.

* Vodafone NZ's 4G mobile network now covers 94% of New Zealand's population, the company said. Carrier aggregation is currently enabled across 40% of the network.

* Australian cloud services provider Bulletproof is losing its COO, Mark Rainbird, the company said in an announcement to the ASX. Rainbird is leaving to pursue new opportunities and will remain with the company until early April.

INDIA and SOUTH ASIA

* Apple is set to begin assembling its iPhone SE models at a contract manufacturer's plant in Bangalore, India, in the coming months, Reuters reports, citing an industry source with direct knowledge of the matter.

* Sri Lanka's Ministry of Telecommunication and Digital Infrastructure, along with Colombo-based Mobitel and Ericsson, signed a memorandum of understanding for a 5G Island of Innovation in South Asia, which is reportedly the first in the region. The arrangement aims to bring Internet of Things innovation to Sri Lanka.

* Vodafone India teamed up with Amazon.com Inc.'s Prime Video to offer subscription discounts to customers signing up through the MyVodafone app or Vodafone website, The Economic Times (India) reports. The offer is initially available only on Android phones.

FEATURED NEWS

MarketWeek: Liberty gains, Sinclair loses amid varied deal rumors: Liberty Global saw gains amid speculation about a tie-up with Vodafone's U.K. operations, while Sinclair Broadcasting's stock went the other way as a report indicated the company was nearing a deal with Tribune Media.

Mounting political opposition unlikely to derail Fox's Sky bid, observers say: Political pressure is mounting for regulators to intervene in Sky's planned £11.7 billion takeover by 21st Century Fox, but industry observers argue this will not derail the Murdoch-backed bid.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Consumer Insights: One never outgrows the love of video games: Results from a recent U.S. Consumer Insights survey reveal that video gamers are of all ages and enjoy playing games on a wide variety of devices.

Joji Sakurai, Myungran Ha, Emily Lai, Ed Eduard and Patrick Tibke contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. Hong Kong time. Some external links may require a subscription.