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Asia Tech Review: 17 February 2020

February 17 · Issue #144 · View online
Asia Tech Review
Welcome back,
As the Coronavirus outbreak continues, travel plans are being iced. At least three events I had planned to attend in the coming month and plot more travel around are postponed. Last week, the tech industry’s Big One – Mobile World Congress – finally bowed to the inevitable and cancelled this year’s show. The impact is huge. MWC typically attracts over 100,000 attendees and it is a key place to get business done, but the organizer’s position became untenable as all the biggest names dropped out one-by-one.
In the end, the cancellation came less than two weeks before the show was scheduled to start. That’s so late that the continued uncertainty likely inconvenienced many, even though it was the correct call: better be safe than sorry.
As for me, Bangkok’s pollution is lifting and having spent more than a month on road around the end of last year, I can say I’m happy to be ‘stuck’ at home for a while.
See you next week.
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Hundreds of Chinese businesses have reportedly applied for $8B+ in loans to deal with coronavirus impact
Four members of China’s military were indicted by the US government on charges of hacking into Equifax link
A profile of Epoch Times, a news organization set up by practitioners of Falun Gong that has been on an advertising blitz and has a large pro-Trump presence in the US link
 US officials say Huawei can covertly access telecom networks and they want their allies to enforce a ban link
Hong Kong
Coinbase, Polychain and Paradigm invested $2M in crypto trading startup Amber link
Amazon is challenging India antitrust probe
A think tank filed an application to stop WhatsApp’s mobile payment trial in India link
SoftBank is reportedly in talks to buy a minority stake in Mahindra Electric Mobility – the Japanese firm is already a key investor in Ola Electric link
Speaking of Ola, it launched a service in London – it began operations in the UK last year and holds a London operating license link
Sequoia is reportedly raising a new $1.3B fund for India and Southeast Asia link 🔒
GitHub launched an Indian subsidiary link
India’s smartphone market grew just 8% in 2019 – 152.5m units shipped link
Yamaha is reportedly in talks to lead a $35M round for self-drive car rental startup Drivezy link
Online furniture retailer Pepperfry raised $40M from adhesive maker Pidilite Industries – last year it put $30M into online interior design company Home Lane link
Vedantu raised an extended $24M for its online tutoring service link
Simsim, a new social commerce startup founded last year, raised $16M link
SoftBank profit wiped out by Vision Fund losses as second fund is scaled back
Rakuten sold its stake in Pinterest ($1.4B) due to concerns of over-valuation among tech companies link
Rakuten was also raided by anti-monopoly officials in response to complaints from merchants about the company’s free shipping policies link
North Korea
North Korea’s secret Coronavirus crisis is scary
Southeast Asia
A look at Facebook's 'double-edged sword' in the carnage of the mall shooting in Thailand
Vietnam’s top e-commerce firms Tiki and Sendo reportedly held exploratory merger talks, but details appear vague at this point link 🔒
Warburg Pincus made an undisclosed investment in Singapore telco Circles.Life link
Sea bought (and rebranded) a Singapore-based football club link
Grab’s escooter rental division, GrabWheels, raised $30M from Taiwanese auto-maker KYMCO as part of an “ongoing” Series A round link
Facebook banned a network of two dozen fake pages and accounts linked to Vietnamese telco Viettel, its Myanmar franchise and a marketing firm for “corporate disinformation” link 🔒
Thailand auctioned 5G licenses ahead of a planned rollout later this year link
OYO is apparently considering closing its co-living business in Indonesia link, although it has denied the claim link
Report estimates Grab’s move into advertising could bring in nearly $250M in revenue per year – confession: not something I’ve studied in depth but Grab needs all the extra money it can make to reach profitability link
Vietnam dropped a proposed 49% foreign ownership cap on e-payment firms link
Tourkrub is reportedly raising a $5M Series B round led by King Power Click, the digital arm of travel retail group King Power link
Outside of Asia tech
Behind Signal’s efforts to make its privacy-focused messaging service mainstream – importantly, a $50M investment from departed WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton has grown the team from 3 to 20 link
That's all for now, see you next week!
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