Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sony pins hopes for profit on PlayStation 4, sets February launch in Japan

Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia President Hiroshi Kawano poses with the company's PlayStation 4 during a photo session after a news conference in Tokyo September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai


1 of 2. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia President Hiroshi Kawano poses with the company's PlayStation 4 during a photo session after a news conference in Tokyo September 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

By Sophie Knight


TOKYO | Mon Sep 9, 2013 6:47am EDT


TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp announced the Japanese release of its PlayStation 4 on Monday as the electronics maker braces for a console war with Microsoft Corp that could make or break the Japanese firm's struggle to return to profit.


Sony said it will launch the PS4 on February 22 in Japan, three months later than its November 15 release in the United States. The basic version of the PS4 will retail for 39,980 yen ($400), in line with its North American $399 price tag. That compares with $499 for Microsoft's Xbox One, which will be rolled out on November 22.


With the PS4, Sony is hoping its gaming division - one of its key businesses along with its mobile and imaging segments - will power a return to profit after the company rejected a proposal from activist shareholder Daniel Loeb to spin off its lucrative entertainment business.


To hit its numbers, Sony must ensure that the PS4 triumphs in the battle against Microsoft's XBox One, as well fighting off competition from Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii U.


The gaming market has changed drastically since the 2006 release of Sony's last console, the PS3, as casual players have switched to online and free-to-play Internet and smartphone games such as Rovio's "Angry Birds" and Midasplayer's "Candy Crush Saga".


But the consumer shift to smartphones and tablets over PCs could actually support demand for videogame consoles, says Damian Thong, analyst at Macquarie Capital in Tokyo.


"The key market here is core games. I would argue the main competition for the PS4 is not casual gaming, it's the PC...the good news is that people aren't buying PCs anymore and they're buying tablets, so they're likely to buy a games console," he said.


Such optimism is backed by research from consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) suggesting that the global market for videogames will recover to $86.9 billion in 2017 from $63.4 billion in 2012, with consumer spending on console games increasing to $31.2 billion in 2017 from $24.9 billion in 2012.


Sony said in August that it had received 1 million preorders for the new console, which will be on sale from November 15 in North America and in other regions including Europe, Australia and South America from November 29, in time for the busy pre-Christmas season.


Sony posted an operating profit of 36.36 billion yen ($367.6 million) for the April-to-June quarter, beating market expectations, but leaving it with some way to go to meet its full-year guidance of 230 billion yen.


($1 = 98.9250 Japanese yen)


(Reporting by Sophie Knight; Editing by Matt Driskill)


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Thursday, September 12, 2013

American Tower extends network reach with $3.3 billion deal

By Chandni Doulatramani

Fri Sep 6, 2013 12:07pm EDT

n">(Reuters) - American Tower Corp said it would buy the parent of telecom tower operator Global Tower Partners for $3.3 billion as it seeks a bigger share of the billions of dollars that U.S. telecom carriers are spending to upgrade their networks.

American Tower shares rose about 4.5 percent in late morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange as investors cheered the acquisition, the latest in a string of deals in the sector.

The company will also assume $1.5 billion in debt as part of the deal, which will increase its tower count by a quarter and cement its position as the largest U.S. operator.

The company is scouting for more deals, Chief Executive Jim Taiclet said on a conference call, adding that the Global Tower purchase was not the "end of the road."

American Tower and its U.S. peers Crown Castle International Corp and SBA Corp are in a scramble to beef up assets across the world as explosive growth in data traffic pushes carriers to spend heavily on upgrading their networks.

Major U.S. telecom companies such as AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc have increased their spending budgets for the current year as they roll out 4G LTE, a high-speed wireless technology.

"With 4G handset penetration still under 10 percent, we continue to believe that we are in the early stages of the 4G deployment cycle," Taiclet said.

The deal comes a month after American Tower said it would acquire about 4,500 telecom towers in Brazil and Mexico from Latin American telecom service provider NII Holdings Inc for $811 million.

JP Morgan analyst Philip Cusick said American Tower might still be interested in buying AT&T Inc towers, which are up for sale. The analyst, however, expects smaller rival Crown Castle to clinch that deal.

MACQUARIE SELLS OUT

Global Tower, formed by its CEO Marc Ganzi in 2003 by acquiring 187 towers from American Tower, is controlled by a consortium of funds managed by the Macquarie Group.

It was acquired by the group for $1.42 billion and structured as a REIT in 2007. Its parent company is MIP Tower Holdings LLC, a privately held real estate investment trust.

The deal will add about 15,700 towers in the United States and Costa Rica to American Tower's existing portfolio of 56,000 towers.

The deal is expected to immediately add to the company's adjusted funds from operations and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2013.

The portfolio is expected to generate about $345 million in revenue in 2014. American Tower had revenue of $2.88 billion in 2012.

American Tower was advised by Goldman, Sachs & Co and EA Markets Securities LLC, while Global Tower's adviser was Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.

American Tower shares were up at $71.84 on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Chandni Doulatramani in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)


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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

U.S. court takes on Internet traffic fight

Developers and programmers participate in a coding challenge at the AWS Re:Invent conference at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas Nevada Nov. 28, 2012. REUTERS/Richard Brian


Developers and programmers participate in a coding challenge at the AWS Re:Invent conference at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas Nevada Nov. 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Richard Brian

By Alina Selyukh


WASHINGTON | Mon Sep 9, 2013 1:38am EDT


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A potential landmark case for U.S. regulation of Internet traffic goes before a panel of federal judges on Monday, testing whether the Federal Telecommunications Commission has authority to enforce so-called net neutrality rules.


Net neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be able to access any Web content and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or varying charges imposed by the Internet service provider or the government.


Oral arguments in the case pit Verizon Communications Inc against the FCC. The biggest U.S. wireless provider is challenging the commission's order that guides how Internet service providers manage their networks.


The FCC's 2011 open Internet rules require Internet providers to treat all Web traffic equally and give consumers equal access to all lawful content.


Verizon has argued the rules are an excessive, "arbitrary and capricious" intrusion which violates the company's right to free speech, stripping it of control over what its networks transmit and how.


The ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the case will have major implications for the debate over the degree of regulatory power possessed by the federal communications agency.


The outcome will also determine whether Internet service providers can restrict some so-called crossing content, for instance, by blocking or slowing down access to particular sites or charging websites to deliver their content faster.


Public interest groups have termed the FCC rules too weak, saying the agency was swayed by big industry players and needs to forge more direct and clearer power of oversight.


"I'd like to see political impetus for the FCC to go back and do the right thing instead of fumbling along and continuing to make bad compromises," said Matt Wood, policy director at public interest group Free Press, adding that a loss to Verizon could serve as such an impetus.


In calling for clearer oversight and warning of the risks of letting Internet providers go free without net neutrality rules, Wood, however, acknowledged that since the case has dragged on, the industry has largely accepted the rules as they are written now and "generally stayed in line."


James Cicconi, top lobbyist for Verizon's chief competitor AT&T Inc, said the court doing away with the FCC's rule is unlikely to prompt any business practice changes.


"I don't think if the rule goes away that you're going to find people out in Silicon Valley thinking the sky is falling," said Cicconi, who had negotiated and helped draft the net neutrality rule with the FCC in what he called "a pragmatic decision" to end the years-long debate over it.


"I'm keeping my fingers crossed that if Verizon wins the case, we don't end up back in some morass," he told Reuters. "I think it would be a debate without purpose."


Democrats on Capitol Hill have said they would push against the court's decision if it sides with Verizon. It is unclear whether Verizon would further appeal the case if it lost.


MetroPCS, another wireless provider that stood alongside Verizon in the case, dropped its lawsuit earlier this year after being acquired by Deutsche Telecom AG's T-Mobile.


The parties will present their arguments to judges Judith Rogers and David Tatel, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, and Laurence Silberman, appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.


Tatel authored the 2010 court opinion that struck down the FCC's earlier attempt to pursue a net neutrality case against Comcast Corp.


The FCC's position in the Verizon case received a boost from the Supreme Court in May, when in a separate case it ruled in favor of giving regulatory agencies deference in interpreting the extent of their own regulatory authority.


The case is Verizon v. FCC, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, case No. 11-1355 (and consolidated cases).


(Reporting by Alina Selyukh, editing by Ros Krasny and Andrew Hay)


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Monday, September 9, 2013

U.S. tapped into networks of Google, Petrobras, others: report

A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in Toronto September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren


A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in Toronto September 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Helgren

By Paulo Prada and Asher Levine


RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO | Mon Sep 9, 2013 2:26am EDT


RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The U.S. government tapped into computer networks of companies including Google Inc. and Brazilian state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA, according to leaked U.S. documents aired by Globo, Brazil's biggest television network.


A week after it broadcast a report that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on the presidents of Brazil and Mexico, Globo said the agency had also spied on major companies.


It showed slides from an NSA presentation, dated May 2012, that it said was used to show new agents how to spy on private computer networks.


In addition to Google and Petrobras the presentation suggested the NSA had tapped into systems operated by France's foreign ministry and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, an international bank cooperative known as Swift, through which many international financial transactions take place.


The report did not say when the alleged spying took place, what data might have been gathered or what exactly the agency may have been seeking.


As with its previous report, Globo disclosed the information in coordination with Glenn Greenwald, an American blogger and journalist for the Guardian newspaper, who has worked with former NSA analyst Edward Snowden to expose the extent of U.S. spying at home and abroad.


During an interview in the Globo broadcast, Greenwald said the documents he obtained from Snowden contain "much more information on spying on innocents, against people who have nothing to do with terrorism, or on industrial issues, which need to be made public."


In an email exchange with Reuters, Greenwald declined to discuss the report further.


Petrobras, which has made some of the world's biggest oil finds in recent years, did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday. Spokespeople for Swift and Google couldn't be reached for comment. Officials at the French embassy in Brazil also could not be reached.


TRADE SECRETS


James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, said U.S. agencies do collect information about economic and financial matters and that it is used to combat terrorist financing and predict problems that could lead to financial crises or disrupt financial markets.


"What we do not do," Clapper said in a statement, "is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of - or give intelligence we collect to - U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line."


Especially before the Snowden revelations began three months ago, U.S. officials regularly accused China of stealing trade secrets from Western countries, including oil and gas firms.


At the very least, revelations of U.S. spying on Petrobras are likely to further complicate the tension between the United States and Brazil over allegations that the NSA spied on the private phone calls and emails of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.


Brazil has demanded a formal apology and Rousseff aides have said the issue could derail a state visit she is due to make to the United States in October.


The tensions led to an impromptu meeting between Rousseff and U.S. President Barack Obama last week at the G20 meeting in Russia. Obama said he would investigate the allegations.


Any spying on Petrobras is sure to raise hackles in Brazil, which has long been suspicious of foreign designs on its abundant natural resources.


U.S. officials, including Obama on a 2011 trip to Brazil and Vice President Joe Biden during a visit in June, have cited the importance of Brazil's big new oil finds and flagged intentions to work closely with the country for future energy needs.


Brazil's so-called sub-salt polygon, where many of the new finds have been discovered, may contain as much as 100 billion barrels of oil, according to Rio de Janeiro State University. One find alone, the giant Libra field, has estimated reserves of up to 12 billion barrels of oil, or enough to supply all U.S. oil needs for nearly two years.


(Additional reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Editing by Kieran Murray and Christopher Wilson)


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