Posts Tagged ‘BNP Paribas’

Move aside Facebook and Skype. Asian social networks, already hugely popular on their continent, have set their sights on Europe where they could prove stiff competition for their US rivals.

China’s WeChat and Japan’s Line, which let users make free calls, send instant messages and post funny short videos and photos, take attributes from Facebook, Skype and messenging application WhatsApp and roll them all together.

This week, Line executives travelled to France and Italy for a public relations offensive aimed at raising awareness of the mobile app, which already counts some 230 million users around the world including 47 million in Japan alone.

The social network has already taken root in other parts of Europe. In Spain, for instance, Line has forged heavyweight partnerships with football clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, brands such as Coca-Cola or tennis star Rafael Nadal.

FC Barcelona, for instance, has a home page on the app where it posts photos that has already drawn more than 8.2 million friends.

Line even has a permanent office in Spain, where it counts some 15 million users already.

A French version of the mobile app, meanwhile, is to be launched before the end of the year.

One of the main selling points for Line, which was launched at the beginning of 2011, is its “stickers” — funny, cartoon-like figures that express emotions in a way deemed far more original and fun than traditional emoticons.

On WeChat, users can post figures that move about dancing, blowing kisses or punching the air. Both social networks also supply a selection of “stickers” that users have to pay for.

“We’re betting a lot on this new form of communication with stickers,” Sunny Kim, assistant director general of Line Europe and America, told AFP on a trip to Paris.

This part of the business represents 30 percent of Line’s overall turnover and in July alone, users bought eight million euros ($10.8 million) worth of stickers.

The company makes the rest of its money on the sale of games integrated in the mobile app (50 percent) and from partnerships and products on the side.

Line’s logo is green with a conversation bubble inside, and looks remarkably similar to the icon of WeChat, which began in January 2011.

Already translated into 19 languages, the social network has 500 million users, including 100 million outside of China, and plans to launch in France towards the end of the year.

While Line has Real Madrid, WeChat has enrolled the help of Argentinian football star Lionel Messi, who has become ambassador of the brand and has filmed a commercial for the social network.

But WeChat — which belongs to China’s web giant Tencent — is also banking on the huge Chinese diaspora to expand.

“The French of Chinese origin or the Canadians of Chinese origin, for instance, are the bridge between China and the rest of the world,” said Renaud Edouard-Baraud, who heads up an Asia consulting branch of the BNP-Paribas bank and advises WeChat.

Many brands keen to tap into the giant China market also have a presence on WeChat.Companies can for instance use geolocalisation to pinpoint the exact location of Chinese users when they are visiting Europe, and send them promotional offers to lure them into their shops.

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HTC may not sustain sales growth into the third-quarter as the glow around the Taiwanese smartphone maker’s flagship model is likely to be eclipsed by new products bigger rivals Apple and Samsung Electronics.

Strong sales of the latest version of the HTC One, as well as the colorful Butterfly range, boosted HTC’s second-quarter net profit surged to T$1.25 billion ($41.63 million)a record low in the previous quarter when a shortage of camera components ed its product launch.

The profit figure, however, lagged forecasts and analysts said the sales growth was likely to be short-lived. Sales for the July-September quarter are expected to remain little changedthe previous quarter and few new products are in the pipeline.

The company has also cut back on component orders for the quarter, which traditionally sees higher sales, several analysts said. BNP Paribas, in a recent research note, said it expected overall third-quarter orders to remain flat the second-quarter.

“HTC may have new products in Q3, but competitionApple and other Chinese brands are fierce,” said Taipei-based analyst Peter Liao of Nomura Securities. “It’ll be hard to keep the growth.”

Analysts said the almost 25 percent drop in HTC’s June sales compared to the same year-ago period also boded ill for the next quarter.

“The big drop on June sales likely proves the HTC One sales momentum slowdown and 3Q may be only flattish as is the market expectation,” Goldman Sacks analyst Michael Shieh said.

Growth in sales for smartphone market leader Samsung Electronics has also started to wane. The South Korean firm missed already modest expectations for its quarterly earnings guidance, deepening worries that its smartphone business may have peaked.

HTC has embarked on a marketing campaign to boost its brand image, a strategy it said in May would squeeze operating margins for the rest of the year.

The company is expected to launch the One Mini phone, which features a 4.3-inch screen and is targeted at the mid-market, in August, a month before both heavyweights Samsung and Apple are likely to release new and upgraded offerings.

In addition to the intense competition, HTC has seen several executives leave the company this year, including Chief Product Officer Kouji Kodera. Company sources say the departures were related to a disappointing product launch and a 40 percent drop in total sales in 2012.

HTC was the world’s 10th-biggest smartphone maker by shipments in the fourth quarter 2012, according to IT research firm Gartner, jostling in a crowded field behind Samsung and Apple.