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‘World of Warcraft’ battle heats up as NetEase rejects Blizzard offer

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'World of Warcraft' battle heats up as NetEase rejects Blizzard offer

Chinese games publisher NetEase Inc NTES.O (9999.HK) said on Wednesday it has rejected a proposal from Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI.O) to extend their long-time partnership for six months, as the U.S. game developer looks for a new partner.

NetEase said the proposal was “commercially illogical” and accused the U.S. firm of “seeking a divorce but still remaining attached,” in a rare public display of acrimony between the two gaming giants.

Blizzard said in November it would end its 14-year partnership with NetEase – sending shockwaves across the industry as the partnership was widely seen as one of the most lucrative in video games.

The companies had been unable to agree on key terms of cooperation and hits such as  World of Warcraft  will not be available in China, the world’s largest gaming market, from Jan. 23.

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NetEase said Blizzard reached out last week with an offer to extend the partnership for six months but also made it clear that it would not stop negotiating with other potential partners.

“Considering the non-reciprocity, unfairness and other strict conditions attached to the cooperation, the parties could not reach an agreement in the end,” China s second-largest gaming company said in a statement.

The exact sticking points that soured the deal, which started in 2008 and was renewed in 2019, remain unclear.
A person close to Blizzard said the dispute that scuttled the renewal revolved around commercial terms rather than data issues as some media had reported.

The person, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue, said NetEase had proposed to make structural changes to the partnership that would affect Blizzard’s control over its intellectual property (IP).

In its statement late on Tuesday, NetEase said it had never requested control over IP from Blizzard or any other partners as a publishing company over the past 14 years.

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“Any usage and licensing of Blizzard’s IP were done in accordance with contract terms and with Blizzard’s consent and approval,” it said.

Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
With the demise of their partnership, Blizzard is currently without a Chinese publisher. Unlike other countries, foreign gaming companies typically need a Chinese publisher before they can release games in China.

NetEase rose to become a gaming giant partly by publishing Blizzard s games in China. It has since accelerated its own game development capability, with in-house games now accounting for more than 60% of revenue.

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Panasonic cuts full-year outlook as costly raw materials weigh

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Panasonic cuts full-year outlook as costly raw materials weigh

Japan’s Panasonic Holdings Corp (6752.T) cut its annual operating profit forecast by 12.5% on Thursday after lower-than-expected third-quarter earnings, hit by headwinds from a slowing global economy and persistently high raw materials prices.

The company faces challenges amid a tricky outlook for global growth, as it looks to further build out its energy business, which includes making auto batteries for electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O).

The conglomerate slashed its operating profit forecast to 280 billion yen ($2.18 billion) for the financial year to Mar. 31, from 320 billion yen, in part due to a less rosy outlook for its industry segment this quarter.

It expects to invest up to about 600 billion yen in the three years through March 2025 in a new battery plant it started building in Kansas last year, Group Chief Financial Officer Hirokazu Umeda told an online earnings presentation.

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Panasonic said in presentation materials it will aim to grow profits in automotive batteries by expanding sales of its 2170 model lithium-ion battery cells and commercialising the more advanced 4680 format battery.

The company’s energy unit last month signed an agreement with Lucid Group Inc (LCID.O) to supply lithium-ion batteries for the EV maker’s full lineup, including its “Air” luxury model.

The company also said it aimed to begin supplying the 4680 format battery to the North American market in the financial year through March 2024 to commercialise this model of battery cells.

Panasonic’s third-quarter result, with its operating profit rising 16% to 84.4 billion yen in the three months ended Dec. 31, fell short of a mean estimate of 95.31 billion yen profit from nine analysts.

Jefferies analysts said in a note before the earnings release that the company’s overly diverse business portfolio lacked focus and was centred on low-margin, cyclical businesses.

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Most investors were focused on more clarity and details about U.S. Inflation Reduction Act benefits for Panasonic’s EV battery cell production, such as the size and sustainability of subsidies, the analysts added.

The energy business’ operating profit fell nearly half to 28.9 billion yen for the nine months through the end of December, hit mainly by high prices for raw materials and transport, despite a 25% rise in sales over the period.

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Japanese chip venture Rapidus needs $54bn to begin production, says chairman

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Japanese chip venture Rapidus needs $54bn to begin production, says chairman

Japan’s state-backed chip venture Rapidus will need about 7 trillion yen ($54 billion) of mostly taxpayer money to begin mass producing advanced logic chips in around 2027, its chairman, Tetsuro Higashi, told Reuters on Thursday.

That plan may be Japan’s last best chance to revive its ageing semiconductor industry as Japan and the United States set aside old industrial rivalries to take on China amid growing geopolitical tension.

“In the past, the United States hindered Japan’s chip industry growth. Now we have America’s support,” Higashi said in an interview.

Japan and the United States worry that friction with China will result in semiconductor shortages that could threaten economic growth.

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That concern has escalated as China has increased pressure on global chip hub Taiwan, with nearby military exercises after Chinese anger over visits by U.S. politicians to the self-ruled island.

TWO NANOMETRES

Following an agreement by Japan and the United States to cooperate in semiconductor technology, Rapidus in December announced a tie-up with IBM Corp (IBM.N) to develop and produce two-nanometre chips.

A nanometer is one-billionth of a metre and the smaller the number, the more cutting-edge the chip is. Japan’s most advanced semiconductor factory is a 40-nanometre plant owned by Renesas Electronics (6723.T).

Rapidus will announce the location of its first factory in March, Higashi said.

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The former boss of chip machinery maker Tokyo Electron (8035.T) declined to say where, but said it would not be near the site on Kyushu island that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd (TSMC) (2330.TW) recently picked for its first Japan factory.

To pay for the factory and buy production equipment, Rapidus will need sustained investment from Japan’s government, which in December announced 70 billion yen ($544 million) of initial funding.

Eight corporations that have small stakes in Rapidus, including Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Sony Group Corp (6758.T), are unlikely to stump up any money soon, Higashi said.

“They are future customers. For them, the decision to invest will be taken when they are able to assess our technology and production plans.”

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Xiaomi demands payout from supplier after car designs leaked

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Xiaomi demands payout from supplier after car designs leaked

China’s Xiaomi <1810.HK) said on Thursday it had imposed a 1 million Yuan ($149,000) penalty on a supplier after it leaked early design drafts of an upcoming car model.

On its official Weibo page, a spokesperson wrote Xiaomi had “dealt seriously” with a Beijing-based moulding technology company which on Jan. 22 publicly revealed images of an upcoming car’s front and rear bumpers, violating a confidentiality agreement.
Xiaomi did not disclose the name of the company and Reuters could not identify it.

As punishment, the smartphone-turned-car maker said it would impose “economic compensation” of 1 million Yuan ($148,763) on the supplier.

The spokesperson added it had instructed the supplier to strengthen its information security management and develop plans to upgrade its confidentiality measures.

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Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun also circulated the note on his personal Weibo page.

Over the Chinese New Year, images purportedly showing mock-ups of the front and rear of Xiaomi’s upcoming electric vehicle (EV) spread on social media, as well as a full view of what appeared to be a white compact sedan, with a license plate that read “MS11”.

The leaks would mark the first confirmed images of Xiaomi’s long-awaited automobile.

However, News portal Sina Tech reported on Thursday that Wang Hua, general manager of Xiaomi’s public relations department, said the leaked designs were part of a bidding process and were not final renderings.

In March 2021 Xiaomi, a hardware company best known for its smartphones said it would enter the automotive sector, aiming to invest $10 billion in the project over ten years.

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Since then, the company has committed to opening a plant in Beijing that could produce 300,000 vehicles per year.

The company has said it hopes to reach mass production of its cars in the first half of 2024.

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