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BUSINESS & TECH

By Ding Yi / Mar 27, 2020 06:54 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Shenzhen is reportedly planning to greenlight road tests of autonomous vehicles carrying passengers as part of ongoing efforts to build a smart transport system.

The southern Chinese city’s transport authorities are seeking public opinion on an upcoming policy which would allow self-driving cars to test passenger transportation in designated areas including university campuses, industrial complexes and scenic areas, according to a report by the state-run newspaper Shenzhen Special Zone Daily.

Qualified cars must have logged no less than 1,000 kilometers in test drives and have no record of traffic infringements. Eligible cars should also go through a series of further tests to assess their ability to detect and respond to pedestrians, non-motorized vehicles, traffic lights and complex road conditions such as crossroads and roundabouts, the report said, citing the planned policy.

Test operators must install vehicle-mounted monitoring equipment, hire licensed drivers and prepare contingency plans, the report said.

So far, Shenzhen has allowed 120 kilometers of roads to be used for autonomous vehicle tests and granted 12 testing licenses to several companies including tech giant Tencent, according to the report.

The news comes after Beijing and Shanghai moved to allow road tests for self-driving cars carrying passengers last year.

Earlier this month, Chinese autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai became the first Chinese company to offer passenger-carrying “robotaxi” services, which it debuted in Fremont, California. Local government employees can hail the company’s self-driving cars to travel between the city’s train station and some municipal buildings such as the town hall.

Search giant Baidu and ride-hailing service provider Didi Chuxing also have similar projects.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: China’s Pony.ai Among First to Launch Passenger-Carrying Robotaxi Service

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BUSINESS & TECH

By Ding Yi / Mar 27, 2020 06:41 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Senior officials in the Trump administration have reportedly agreed to accept a proposal aimed at restricting the global supply of chips to Huawei, about three weeks after the U.S. once again extended a reprieve through May to allow American suppliers to continue doing business with the Chinese tech giant.

The proposed new rules would require foreign companies using American chipmaking equipment to obtain a license from the U.S. if they want to sell chips to Huawei, Reuters reported Thursday, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

One of the sources told Reuters that the proposal, which awaits approval by President Trump, means to create barriers on sales of chips to Huawei’s HiSilicon unit by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., one of its major suppliers. Trump appeared to push back against the proposal last month.

Another source said that the proposal mainly takes aim at makers of sophisticated semiconductors, Reuters reported.

Most major chipmakers, including KLA Corp., Lam Research and Applied Materials, use American-made equipment, according to a report by China’s Everbright Securities.

The sources also revealed to Reuters that top officials from several U.S. government agencies such as the National Security Council and the U.S. Department of State, Defense, Energy and Commerce agreed Wednesday to change the Foreign Direct Product Rule, which subjects some foreign-made products using U.S. technology or software to U.S. regulations.

The news comes as Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei said this week in a video interview with the South China Morning Post that Huawei will invest $20 billion, up from $15 billion last year, in research and development in 2020 as part of ongoing efforts to create new technologies that can help the company take the lead in the global race amid U.S. pressures.

“The U.S. will continue to increase sanctions on us, and we will have to complete the new technologies before that happens,” the Post quoted Ren as saying, while acknowledging that complete “de-Americanization” would be “impossible” for Huawei as globalization has become an indisputable reality.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce extended a license allowing American companies to restart component sales to Huawei until May 15. Prior to the March reprieve, the U.S. granted four such license extensions to Huawei.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Trump Signs Law Barring Small State-Supported Telcos from Buying Huawei Equipment

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Ding Yi / Mar 27, 2020 10:56 AM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Luo Yonghao, the founder of debt-ridden Chinese smartphone brand Smartisan, said Thursday that he will start selling products using the widely used short video platform Douyin via livestreams, just a week after announcing more general plans to move into e-commerce via livestreaming.

The first livestream will take place on the evening of April 1, when some “affordable and fancy products” will go on sale, Luo said in a video published on his personal WeChat account. Previously, the tech entrepreneur said that his team would initially focus on selling digital gadgets, “cultural” and “creative” products, books, groceries and snacks.

In the video, Luo, who describes himself as one of the first-generation of online celebrities, also said that he has confidence in the future of live-streamed e-commerce, a sector that has taken off with sales estimated to reach 440 billion yuan in 2019.

Live-streaming sales are seen as Luo’s fresh business venture after he met substantial setbacks in his previous businesses including the manufacture of e-cigarettes and synthetic shark skins. His new venture also comes as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many of China’s brick-and-mortar retailers to turn to live-streaming to promote and sell their products to offset virus-linked losses.

ByteDance-owned Douyin, which goes by TikTok outside China, is one of the major players in China’s live-streaming e-commerce market along with Alibaba’s Taobao Live and Kuaishou. It was the fifth most downloaded non-game app on Apple’s App Store in China in January, according to research firm App Annie.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Smartisan Founder Announces Push Into E-Commerce With Eye on Livestreaming Sales

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By Ding Yi / Mar 26, 2020 02:54 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

EHang, the Chinese maker of self-driving “air taxis,” reported strong revenue growth and a narrowing net loss in the fourth quarter of 2019 as sales of its aerial vehicles ballooned.

For the three months through December, the Nasdaq-listed company’s total revenues reached 54.7 million yuan ($7.9 million), more than four times higher than the amount it generated in the final quarter of 2018, according to an earnings report released Tuesday.

Net losses fell to 200,000 yuan from 30.7 million yuan over the same period the year before, the report said. Adjusted net income was 2.9 million yuan, compared with an adjusted net loss of 25.6 million yuan in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Nearly 70% of EHang’s total revenues came from sales of what the report calls “air mobility solutions,” which include aerial vehicles. The cars use “cluster management techniques centralized at a ground-based command-and-control center” to enable unmanned vehicles to travel safely and in an orderly manner, according to a company white paper released in January.

A 2018 Morgan Stanley blue paper estimated that the global urban air-mobility market could reach $1.5 trillion by 2040.

In 2019, EHang sold a total of 61 passenger-grade autonomous aerial vehicles, which are normally used for sightseeing, public transport, medical relief and logistics, according to the earnings report. The company only shifted three such vehicles in 2018.

Experts say that the nascent autonomous aerial vehicle industry still lacks unified standards to assess the security risks of such vehicles. Last year, EHang was approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to pilot several programs aimed at exploring the country’s airworthiness standards and management systems for unmanned aerial vehicles.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Air-Taxi Maker Looks for Lift With Wall Street Listing Plan

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By Ding Yi / Mar 25, 2020 10:17 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. grabbed the largest share of China’s cloud infrastructure service market in the fourth quarter of 2019, surpassing rivals Tencent and Baidu by a substantial margin.

For the three months through December, Alibaba Cloud controlled 46.4% of the market, which grew overall by 66.9% to $3.3 billion during the period, according to a report by research firm Canalys.

Tencent Cloud was the second-largest cloud service provider during the quarter, growing its share to 18%, while Baidu AI Cloud came in third with a market share of 8.8%, Canalys said, without specifying how much the three companies grew their shares from the same period in 2018.

However, the research firm released another report in June showing that Alibaba Cloud, Tencent Cloud and Baidu AI Cloud respectively accounted for 47.3%, 15.4% and 8% of the market in the first quarter of 2019.

As the Covid-19 pandemic increases demand for cloud services, Alibaba has opened its AI-powered platform to scientists studying how to treat and prevent the disease. In addition, Tencent has enabled affected workers to work from home using its collaboration services WeChat Work and Tencent Meeting, while Baidu has developed mapping tools to track the spread of the outbreak.

Canalys predicts that the outlook for cloud services in 2020 is positive as organizations shift more of their applications and businesses to the cloud due to Covid-19. Researchers think that the trend will continue even after the outbreak ends.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: WeChat Blocks Rival Business App as Remote Working Takes Off in China


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By Ding Yi / Mar 25, 2020 05:57 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Chinese classifieds marketplace platform 58.com said Tuesday that it has agreed to purchase online used vehicle seller Uxin’s business-to-business (B2B) auction platform for $105 million.

The transaction is expected to be completed by the first half of 2020, New York-listed 58.com said in a press release.

“Uxin’s auction business directly complements our used car business,” 58.com's chairman and CEO Michael Yao said in a statement, describing the purchase as an important step by the company to carry out its “all-in-service” strategy.

In a separate press release, Beijing-based Uxin said that after the transaction it will gradually shift focus to business-to-consumer (B2C) sales as part of its plans to expand into the retail market.

The deal with 58.com comes less than a month after Nasdaq-listed Uxin denied reports saying it would temporarily suspend some of its employees from March 1 due to operational difficulties. However, Uxin admitted that it temporarily cut employees’ salaries in order to stabilize its cash flow amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: China’s 58 Home Delays U.S. IPO As Epidemic Weakens Customer Demand: Bloomberg


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By Peng Yanfeng and Mo Yelin / Mar 25, 2020 03:12 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Xiaomi Corp. has launched a massive 98-inch smart TV at the comparatively low price of 19,999 yuan ($2,829), in a bid to boost its position as one of China’s leading names with a diversified product range.

The company’s Redmi unit launched the product, dubbed “Smart TV MAX”, through a livestreaming event on Tuesday, eschewing the usual live audience debut due to the coronavirus outbreak. The product is set to go on sale by April 9.

With the price tag of 19,999 yuan, it is the most expensive TV Xiaomi has ever launched. However, it is far cheaper than comparable 98-inch models currently on the market, which normally cost over 100,000 yuan.

By launching the product, Xiaomi is riding a “bigger-screen wave” which consumers have opted for in recent years, said Liu Buchen, a home-appliance analyst, calling the 19,999 yuan price “disruptive” to market incumbents.

However, given that the 98-inch TV market is very small with annual sales of only several thousand, Xiaomi’s move is unlikely to have a significant impact on the overall market in China, said an executive at a major domestic TV manufacturer.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)

Related: Xiaomi Pushes Envelope With Pricey New Smartphone Series


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By Ding Yi / Mar 25, 2020 12:53 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s industry and technology regulator has summoned representatives from Weibo to a meeting and ordered them to enhance data security after hackers stole personal data on millions of Weibo users and sold it on the dark web.

Last week, Alibaba’s former security chief Wei Xingguo claimed on Weibo that data on millions of Weibo users, including his own contact details, had been leaked online. Wei’s statement triggered a public outcry online, with some claiming that they had found basic information on 538 million Weibo users such as phone numbers and addresses circulating on the dark web. Wei’s post was subsequently deleted for unknown reasons.

During the meeting held on Saturday, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) urged Weibo to take steps to reduce data theft and improve its privacy policies in accordance with the country’s cybersecurity law and other regulations, according to a statement published on Tuesday on the ministry’s website.

The MIIT also asked the Twitter-like platform to regularly self-evaluate the data security levels of new services ahead of their official launches, the statement added

Also on Saturday, Weibo issued a statement, in which it admitted to the data leak but downplayed the incident and said using the same password on different platforms will put Weibo users at greater risk of their personal information being stolen.

Weibo had 516 million monthly active users at the end of December, a net addition of about 54 million from the previous year, the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report showed.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: TikTok Establishes Content Advisory Council to Ease Data Security Concerns


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By Bloomberg / Mar 25, 2020 10:26 AM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son is continuing to bet on himself, even after he reportedly considered and then abandoned the idea of taking his conglomerate private.

Son discussed the idea with investors including Elliott Management and the Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund Mubadala in the past week, the Financial Times reported, before moving ahead with a plan to sell assets instead.

The Japanese billionaire is backing himself in other ways. A regulatory filing Tuesday shows his stake has risen to 26.9% from 25.5% and, with SoftBank’s shares gyrating wildly, he also pledged more stock against his holdings.

Son committed an extra 600,000 shares, or about 0.3% of his holdings, to lenders, the filing shows. It means 38.6% of his stake is now pledged to global banks including UBS Group AG and Nomura Holdings Inc., more than triple the level in 2013.

He also loaned 30 million shares -- about 5% of his holding -- to Son Equities, according to the disclosure. The holding company is invested in GungHo Online Entertainment, a gaming firm founded by his youngest brother Taizo Son whose shares have dropped 35% this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The size of Son’s pledges -- 216.9 million shares worth $7.4 billion -- are among the most significant tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That amount trails only Larry Ellison, Russia’s Suleiman Kerimov and China’s Qin Yinglin on the ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.

Related: Celebrity SoftBank Founder Finds Being Charitable During Virus Outbreak Isn’t Easy


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By Ding Yi / Mar 24, 2020 04:52 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing’s autonomous driving subsidiary is close to finalizing a deal to secure a $300 million investment led by Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank, U.S. news outlet The Information reported Monday, citing sources close to the matter.

The news comes as Didi pushes forward with plans to develop driverless vehicles which it wants to use for its planned robotaxi services. The Chinese company spun off its autonomous driving division into an independent company in August.

A Didi representative declined to comment on the deal.

Apart from seeking investors, Didi has also forged partnerships with tech firms to materialize its self-driving ambition. In December, it signed an agreement with U.S. chipmaker Nvidia allowing it to use the latter’s Nvidia Drive platform to develop cars with so-called “Level 4” self-driving capabilities.

The Chinese government divides autonomous driving technology from Level 0 to Level 5 depending on how much human intervention is needed and based on environmental conditions.

Didi’s ride-hailing business has taken a hit since Covid-19 spread in China and around the world. Demand, which had fallen to about one-fifth the typical level, recovered to about 50% of its usual levels in recent weeks, The Information said citing one of the sources.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Baidu Apollo Awarded Chongqing Self-Driving Contract


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By Ding Yi and Zheng Lichun / Mar 23, 2020 05:20 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Xpeng has acquired a lesser-known electric carmaker through its investment affiliate, a move industry observers say could help it produce its own new energy vehicles independently, as the company seeks to reduce dependence on its manufacturing partner.

The deal, which will see Xpeng-owned Zhaoqing New Energy Investment Co. buy Guangdong Foday Automobile, will help Xpeng improve its supply chain management and enhance its product development and manufacturing capabilities, a Xpeng representative said, without specifying how much money it paid.

A source close to the matter told Caixin that the acquisition will also help Xpeng obtain a license for its own manufacturing facility in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province, to build vehicles independently. The 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) Zhaoqing plant, which aims to achieve an annual production capacity of 200,000 units, is already making cars on a trial basis and is scheduled to produce Xpeng’s second model, the P7 electric sports sedan, the source added.

Currently, Xpeng produces its G3 electric compact sport utility vehicles under contract with Haima Auto. However Haima is currently facing possible delisting from the Shenzhen Stock Exchange due to poor financial conditions. Haima produced only 630 Xpeng G3s in January and none in February amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to its filings to the bourse.

The Xpeng representative said that the acquisition of Foday will not affect its partnership with Haima.

Two weeks ago, Xpeng claimed that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) had rated the P7 as being able to drive 706 kilometers on a single charge, longer than any other electric car sold in China. The company also said at the time that it will officially launch the P7 and start deliveries in China in the second quarter of 2020.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Xpeng Gets Green Light to Test Autonomous Vehicles in U.S.


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By Yuan Ruiyang and Mo Yelin / Mar 20, 2020 04:10 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Ecommerce aggregation site operator Shanghai Zhongyan Information Technology has listed in Shanghai through a backdoor-listing plan, following a year-long failure to seek an IPO.

According to the IPO plan, which was completed as of Thursday, Shanghai Zhongyan piggybacking off a struggling chemical manufacturer called JiangXi ChangJiu Biochemical Industry Co. Ltd, which earlier this month it was suspending trading in Shanghai in preparation for a restructuring.

Shanghai Zhongyan’s assets would be transferred to JiangXi ChangJiu, while JiangXi ChangJiu would buy the same amount of the assets through capital means including issuing new shares. Shanghai Zhongyan was listed under the name of JiangXi ChangJiu, when it resumed trading Thursday.

Shanghai Zhongyan’s fanli.com was an aggregation site for other third-party ecommerce platforms and brands. As of end of last year, it had 240 million registered users while its namesake app had monthly active users of 10.6 million in 2019. The company mainly makes money through commission fees on completed orders of products listed on its site. Last year, the company reported net profit of 151 million yuan ($21 million) on revenues of 611 million yuan.

Read the full story on Caixin Global later.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com)

Related: E-Commerce Platform in Crisis After Spending $225 Million in Merchants’ Cash


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By Ding Yi / Mar 20, 2020 03:58 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Baidu Apollo has secured a 52.8 million yuan ($7.47m) government contract to provide autonomous driving solutions for a road-testing project in the Chinese municipality of Chongqing, the company said in a statement Thursday.

According to the statement, Baidu Apollo will build a “vehicle-road coordination system” necessary for Level 4 autonomous driving. China rates the different types of autonomous driving on a sliding scale depending on how much human interaction is needed and on environmental conditions. The vehicle road coordination system Baidu has been contracted to build will be used in an open test base in Chongqing’s Yongchuan district.

“Vehicle-road coordination technology”, which is highlighted in China’s recently released intelligent vehicle development plan, is used to increase the interaction between smart road infrastructures and self-driving cars, which in turn strengthens the car’s capabilities of understanding the surrounding road conditions.

As part of the facility the company will also build various road environments to simulate specific road conditions such as an overpass and the type of road conditions typically found in urban city centers, as well as a self-driving car monitoring platform, the statement added.

In 2019, Baidu signed an agreement with the Yongchuan district government and the Chongqing Academy of Metrology and Quality Inspection to jointly build the test facility, which broke ground on Mar. 9 and will accommodate up to 100 self-driving cars to be tested simultaneously. The deal came a year after Baidu obtained a license to conduct road tests of autonomous vehicles in Chongqing.

China has recently made several major moves in its attempt to push ahead with driverless vehicle development including the rollout of a development blueprint setting 2025 as the year to achieve mass production of cars with “conditional” self-driving capacities and a national standard that divides autonomous driving technology from Level 0 to Level 5. “Conditional” driving automation refers to Level 3 technology.

Established in 2017, Baidu’s open-source Apollo platform aims to give third-party partners access to the necessary technology needed for the research and development of autonomous vehicles including high-definition mapping, obstacle perception technology and cloud simulation service.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Baidu Registered Most Kilometers Driven by Autonomous Vehicles in Beijing Last Year, Survey Shows


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By Ding Yi / Mar 20, 2020 01:44 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Luo Yonghao, founder of the niche and debt-ridden Chinese smartphone brand Smartisan, has announced plans to move into live-streamed e-commerce, a sector that has boomed as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has diverted shoppers away from physical stores and toward online shopping websites.

The tech entrepreneur’s plan comes as many of China’s brick-and-mortar retailers turn to livestreaming to promote and sell their products to offset virus-related losses, which has caused plants and stores to shut down as people stay at home.

According to a statement published Thursday on his personal WeChat account, Luo said that his team will initially focus on selling digital products, “cultural” and “creative” products, books, and groceries via livestreamed broadcasts.

The high-profile businessman, who was once hailed for his savvy marketing skills, did not specify which online platforms he will use.

Currently, China’s livestreaming e-commerce market is dominated by Taobao Live — a livestreaming arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba — and several short video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou.

The number of channels and individual live-streams conducted for product sales and promotions on Taobao Live respectively ballooned 100% and 110% year-on-year during the period between January and Feb. 18, according to data Alibaba provided to Caixin.

Alibaba largely attributed the strong growth to Taobao Live’s Feb. 10 decision to remove some of the requirements physical stores must meet in order to do business on the platform amid the outbreak.

In November, Luo was placed on a government blacklist barring him from purchasing luxury goods and services such as booking flight tickets and staying in upscale hotels after a Smartisan subsidiary he controls was unable to complete a payment of an undisclosed sum to an electronics company.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Debt-Ridden Smartphone-Maker’s Eccentric CEO Placed on ‘Restricted Consumption List’


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By Bloomberg / Mar 20, 2020 10:51 AM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Apple kept its business rolling through the coronavirus pandemic this week by launching a new iPad Pro and two new Macs. But that doesn’t mean its supply chain is in the clear.

Deliveries of the new products will begin arriving on doorsteps next week. However, production of those devices likely started in early January, before the worst effects of China’s virus lockdown in February, according to people familiar with Apple’s supply chain.

With a fresh round of supplier factory closures enforced by Malaysia, and the virus disrupting operations in much of the rest of the world, the iPhone maker’s supply chain has not fully recovered yet.

A two-week lockdown in Malaysia is affecting several key suppliers that have operations in the country. Murata Manufacturing Co., Renesas Electronics Corp. and Ibiden Co., which make chips and circuit boards for Apple, have halted production there.

Micron Technology Inc., which makes memory chips for Apple devices, is also impacted, but said an exemption allows “limited semiconductor operations to continue.” Texas Instruments Inc. and On Semiconductor Corp. have facilities in Malaysia, too.

Apple has suppliers and operations in other countries that have been hammered by the virus, including Italy, Germany, the U.K. and South Korea.

These struggles have yet to severely derail the 5G iPhone launch in the fall. During China’s factory shutdown in February, Apple was able to build a limited number of test versions of the new models, one of the people familiar with the company’s supply chain said.

Apple finalizes the majority of design features for new iPhones between November and December of the year prior to launch, the people said. It begins mass-producing new casings around April and then starts a late manufacturing stage called Final Assembly, Test and Pack in about May.

Should Apple be unable to send full teams of engineers to China factories to finalize designs and resolve issues, this typical timeline could still slip, another person familiar with the company’s supply chain said.

Related: China's E-Learning Demand Bites Into Apple’s Ipad Supply


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By Ding Yi / Mar 19, 2020 05:47 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Chinese social media app TikTok has named a group of external technology and safety experts as the founding members of its content moderation committee, the latest move in an attempt to ease U.S. concerns over its data security and potential for blocking or deleting content at Beijing’s request.

The committee, officially known as the Content Advisory Council, will be tasked with advising on and shaping the app’s content policies related to child safety, hate speech, misinformation, bullying and other potential issues, TikTok said in a statement on Wednesday.

The council will be chaired by Dawn Nunziato, a professor at George Washington University Law School and co-director of the Global Internet Freedom Project. Nunziato specializes in areas of free speech and content regulation, according to the statement.

Other members include Rob Atkinson, a technology policy expert; Hany Farid, who has insights into digital images, video forensics and deep fakes; Dan Schnur, a political communications expert; and Vicki Harrison, a social worker who specializes in child safety issues and holistic youth needs.

The council members will meet with TikTok’s U.S. leadership for their first conference at the end of March to discuss topics around platform integrity including policies against misinformation and election interference, the company said.

ByteDance-owned TikTok, also known as Douyin in China, has made concerted efforts to boost transparency and improve its content review mechanisms recently as some U.S. lawmakers have voiced concerns that the Chinese app deletes content at the behest of the Chinese government. TikTok has long denied such allegations, arguing that Beijing has no jurisdiction over content published on its platform outside of China.

Earlier this month, TikTok announced plans to open a content moderation transparency center in its Los Angeles office to show external experts how it reviews content and processes concerns from users and content creators.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: TikTok to Open U.S. ‘Transparency Center’ to Address Security Concerns


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By Ding Yi / Mar 19, 2020 01:57 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

The president of Tencent said Wednesday that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has led to growth in traffic to its “super-app” WeChat.

Since early February, the outbreak has drawn 8 billion visits to the multi-purpose platform’s Health Code service, which allows users to obtain a log of their physical status by scanning embedded QR codes, Tencent’s president Martin Lau said during a fourth-quarter earnings call. Users then present their Health Codes before entering public places such as residential communities and office buildings.

According to Lau, Tencent has rolled out the Health Code system in more than 300 Chinese cities and counties amid government calls for tech firms to contribute to the battle against the disease.

The outbreak has also bolstered the popularity of other services including Tencent Meeting and Tencent Health, which respectively help workers to conduct teleconferences and dispense information about the epidemic.

Lau said that Tencent Meeting allowed people to organize online meetings while working from home, but did not specify the number of users who have signed up for the service during the outbreak. Tencent Meeting, which was launched in December, has had over 10 million daily active users so far, the company said.

Meanwhile, Tencent Health, a mini-program that runs on the WeChat platform, also launched an artificial intelligence-powered tool to help people find out whether they have the coronavirus, Lau said, adding that more than 300 million WeChat users used the service so far.

Wednesday’s earnings call came after Tencent announced its profit rose by 52% to 21.6 billion yuan in the last three months of last year.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: Tencent Q4 Profit Rises 52% on Growing International Games, Fintech Businesses


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By Yang Ge / Mar 19, 2020 01:25 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

In faster times it basked in the spotlight as domestic and foreign media often dubbed it “China’s Tesla.” But now electric car maker Nio Inc. is telling the world it may be running on fumes as the company rapidly burns through cash with no sign of profits in sight.

The dire outlook was buried at the bottom of the company’s newly released results, where management drew attention to its “continuous losses, net cash outflows, negative working capital, negative equity and uncertainties on consummation of the financing projects” it would need to keep funding its business.

“As a result of the relevant conditions and events … there is substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” it said.

The gloomy outlook sparked a sell-off of Nio shares, which tumbled 16% in New York after the announcement.

On Wednesday the company reported its revenue slipped 17% to 2.8 billion yuan in last year’s fourth quarter, following a sharp scale-back in government incentives for electric vehicles midway through the year. The bottom line was slightly better, with Nio’s quarterly net loss narrowing 18% from a year earlier to 2.86 billion yuan.

More worrisome, the company’s available cash stood at just over 1 billion yuan at the end of the quarter, noticeably less than the 8.4 billion yuan in its coffers at the end of 2018.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

Related: Nio Deliveries Nosedive in February Amid Coronavirus Spread


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By Ding Yi / Mar 18, 2020 07:23 PM / Business & Tech

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Photo: VCG

Toyota has partnered with Chinese autonomous driving startup Momenta to market so-called “high definition (HD) mapping” platform in China, adding to its growing number of agreements with Chinese companies on driverless vehicle development.

In a Wednesday statement, Momenta said that it will provide Toyota with its camera-based high-definition mapping technology, which the Japanese carmaker will use to develop its Automated Mapping Platform (AMP). AMP is an open software platform that aims to help startups accelerate their development of automated driving applications and enter into the market.

Momenta’s mapping technology is able to provide location accuracy to within 10 centimeters and road information including traffic signs, lane borders and traffic lights. The technology is also more affordable than laser radars because it adopts a consumer-grade sensing system made up of monocular cameras, GPS devices and inertial measurement unit, according to the statement.

“Momenta’s strategy is to seek both mass production of autonomous vehicles and full autonomy for cars,” the statement added.

Last week, Toyota’s research arm wrapped up a proof of concept to create automated high-definition maps with an accuracy of 50 centimeters or less for automated vehicles using commercial satellite imagery.

The tie-up between Toyota and Momenta comes less than a month after the Japanese automaker invested $400 million in another autonomous vehicle startup, Pony.ai., for the commercialization of vehicles with self-driving capabilities.

Contact reporter Ding Yi (yiding@caixin.com)

Related: China’s Pony.ai Secures $400 Million from Toyota to Develop Driverless Cars

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By Yang Ge / Mar 18, 2020 06:46 PM / Business & Tech

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Leading online game operator Tencent Holdings Ltd. reported strong profit growth in last year’s fourth quarter, fueled by strong performance for its international games and fintech businesses.

Tencent said its revenue grew 25% in the final three months of 2019 to 105.8 billion yuan ($15.1 billion), while its profit rose by an even stronger 52% to 21.6 billion yuan, according to its latest quarterly report released after markets closed on Wednesday.

While its overall online game revenue rose by a modest 10% for all of 2019, international game revenue more than doubled in the fourth quarter and accounted for 23% of total gaming revenue for the three-month period, the company said.

The company also posted strong gains for its mobile payments business, as its WeChat-based service battles with Alibaba’s Alipay for market share in the popular space that is quickly making cash obsolete in many Chinese cities. Tencent said that in the fourth quarter its fintech division averaged in excess of 1 billion daily commercial payment transactions, covered more than 800 million monthly active users, and work with over 50 million monthly active merchants.

The company said that fintech services accounted for 27% of its total revenue for all of 2019, up from 23% for the previous year.

Contact reporter Yang Ge (geyang@caixin.com)

Related: Tencent Music Announces Moves Into Black in Q4 2019 As Paying Users Grew


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