Dec 27, 2018 02:44 PM

Thursday Tech Briefing: Tech Layoffs Are Making Beijing Office Space Cheaper

1. JD. com Announces $1 Billion Share Repurchase Program

Chinese e-commerce company Inc. said Wednesday its board of directors has authorized a share repurchase program under which the company may repurchase up to $1 billion worth of its shares over the next 12 months.’s Nasdaq-listed shares rose 6.84% during trading hours Wednesday. Last week, prosecutors in Minnesota said they will not file sexual assault charges against founder Richard Liu after nearly three months of reviewing the case. Liu was accused of rape in late August by a college student in Minnesota. said that its board of directors will review the share repurchase program periodically and may authorize adjustment of its terms and size. It plans to fund repurchases from its existing cash balance. (Official announcement)

2. Panel-Maker BOE Adds to Bets on Bendable Screens

Chinese display-panel manufacturer BOE Technology Group Co. Ltd. plans to invest no less than 46.5 billion yuan ($6.8 billion) in a new production facility for a new generation of bendable displays, seen as a key element for future smart gadgets.

BOE announced a partnership with the Fuzhou city government in Fujian province Wednesday for the new project to make active-matrix organic light-emitting-diode (AMOLED) displays. The city government will provide financial and policy support to the project, according to a BOE filing.

The facility, which will use the latest 8.5-generation substrates, is designed to have a production capacity of 48,000 sheets a month. BOE previously set up facilities to produce sixth-generation AMOLED displays in Chongqing, making it the second producer of such products following South Korea’s Samsung. (Caixin)

3. Beijing’s New Internet Court Settles Dispute Between App Titans

The Beijing Internet Court ruled Wednesday that short videos online can enjoy the same copyright protections as television and radio programs, local newspaper The Beijing News reported. This case attracted much attention as the first case ever heard by Beijing’s Internet Court, one of the country’s three courts that handle disputes originating online.

In the case, short-video app TikTok sued Chinese internet giant Baidu and Baidu’s own video app Huopai for copyright infringement. TikTok said it owns the exclusive copyrights to a 13-second video published by its user on its platform, which Huopai had published without TikTok’s permission.

The court said that as an online publishing platform, TikTok, which is known in China as Douyin, had the right to file a lawsuit. However, it ruled that Baidu’s actions did not constitute copyright infringement, because Baidu is an online service provider, and it immediately deleted the video when asked to by TikTok. (Caixin)

4. Oppo Unveils Smartphone Voice Assistant Breeno

Chinese smartphone maker Oppo launched its voice assistant Breeno Wednesday at its annual developer conference. The company plans to spend 1 billion yuan ($145 million) to attract developers to add more functions to its assistant.

Even though U.S. search giant Google offers Google Assistant for all Android phones, smartphone manufacturers prefer to build their own AI assistants, including their own voice assistants. Samsung has already launched Bixby, Xiaomi has XiaoAI, and Vivo has Jovi.

Oppo has formed an alliance with 18 companies, including Chinese home electronics maker Midea Group and TCL Corp., to make sure its voice assistant can command various home appliances. Oppo is China’s No. 3 smartphone-maker, shipping 22.3 million units in the third quarter. (Official announcement, link in Chinese)

5. Beijing Office Space Becomes Cheaper Amid Tech Layoffs

Amid reports of massive layoffs in the Chinese tech sector, rental prices for the average Grade-A office in Beijing have dropped to 400 yuan per square meter in the fourth quarter, 0.7% lower than the price in the third quarter, according to commercial real estate broker DTZ.

According to DTZ, layoffs in internet and fintech companies are the main reason behind the drop, and they expect the price continue to slide with an increasing supply of office space in Beijing in 2019.

Bike-sharing startup Mobike recently told Caixin that it was conducting “normal business adjustments,” while online-to-offline services company Meituan Dianping said it had slashed jobs as part of “normal” restructuring. Meanwhile, former employees of online travel agency Inc. have said they intend to sue the company for sacking them without sufficient notice.

(Caixin, link in Chinese)

6. Tutoring Unicorn Yuanfudao Raises $300 Million as Tech Giants Circle

Chinese online-tutoring unicorn Yuanfudao has bagged a $300 million round of funding that values the company at more than $3 billion, as the sector attracts increased interest from tech giants like Tencent, Baidu and NetEase Inc.

Yuanfudao said on its WeChat account that existing investor Tencent Holdings Ltd. led the latest financing round. Other backers were also existing investors, including venture capital firms Warburg Pincus, IDG Capital, and Matrix Partners China.

Rival platform Zuoyebang completed a new funding round of $350 million in July led by technology-focused hedge fund Coatue Management. The company, which is backed by search giant Baidu Inc., didn’t disclose its valuation. (Caixin)

Compiled by Zhang Erchi

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