China's top rideshare boss vacates her role

PLUS: Grab's fintech profits surges; TSMC exec gets ASML sticker shock; US and China talk about AI, and more.

ASIA IN BRIEF Jean Qing Liu, the president of China's top rideshare biz DiDi (and daughter of Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzhi) on Sunday "informed the Company and its board of directors her wish to resign from her current position as a director and president, with a view to focusing on the company's talent and organization, development of supporting functions and social responsibility work."

The above quote comes from a statement that adds "Ms Liu will be elevated to the role of permanent partner reporting to Mr Will Wei Cheng, the chairman and CEO of the company."

"She will maintain her current duties and responsibilities within the company and maintain the role as the company's chief people officer. Following the above changes, the company will not hold a president position going forward."

Liu has worked at DiDi for almost a decade, and on her watch the biz rose to utterly dominate China's ride share market, win over 550 million customers, and expand into international markets.

– Simon Sharwood

Grab's data grab powers fintech profit surge

The financial services arm of Asia's Uber analog Grab grew 53 percent year-on-year to $55 million in the first quarter of 2024 – a feat its chief operating officer Alex Hungate attributed to having access to information a bank typically cannot access.

Improved monetization, lower than expected credit loss and an increase in product demand were all cited as reasons for the investor-pleasing results. Singapore-based Grab's fintech products include its Digibank, as well as its GrabFin, which offers loans and insurance products.

In 2022 the firm announced a strategy to vet customers for loans based on data gathered as they use Grab's many services – such as ride share, food delivery, and financial services.

At the launch of the strategy, Hungate revealed that Grab knew so much about its customers that its Know Your Customer checks were sometimes all but done before users even signed for financial services products.

Last week, the exec proclaimed knowing customers "deeply in a data science sense" was "paying off" and visible in the quarterly results.

"We're getting a lower cost of payments relative to what we would get from third-party providers and our deep, credit modelling skills using data science where we now actually ingest something like 185 variables in our data models – many of them highly unconventional relative to what a bank could access – and that allows us to grow our book at this kind of rate but maintain an NPL of only 2 percent," explained Hungate.

The superapp posted Q1 revenue growth of 24 percent year-on-year to $653 million, as its adjusted core profit flipped to $62 million from a negative $67 million loss year-on-year.

Think tank warns China poised to become medical AI powerhouse

China has access to publicly available biodata from around the world, while its domestic datasets remain closed off to other countries – a strategy that could give it a competitive advantage, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) warned last week.

"Beijing is promoting medical AI commercialization, and top Chinese technology companies that have not previously been involved in biotechnology are moving into the medical AI space," offered the DC-based think tank.

The report suggests China's biodata leadership alleged could help the country become a "global medical powerhouse in medical AI."

China and US begin AI talks

Delegates from the United States and China last week met in Geneva to discuss the thwarting of the existential threats posed by AI.

The meeting was the first in a series of planned discussions between the two nations.

"In a candid and constructive discussion, the United States and PRC exchanged perspectives on their respective approaches to AI safety and risk management," reported a statement from National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson.

Watson stated that during the talks US representatives raised concerns over the misuse of AI by the PRC and "reiterated the importance of harnessing the benefits of AI for sustainable development."

According to Chinese state-sponsored media, Beijing "expressed a firm stance regarding US restrictions and suppression against China in the field of AI."

Instagram use overtakes NAVER in Korea

Meta's Instagram has overtaken South Korea's Google analog NAVER as the third most popular mobile app in the nation, according to a reports citing data from market research firm Wiseapp.

In April, Korean app users were assessed as spending 20 billion minutes on NAVER and 20.9 billion minutes on Instagram.

First and second place went to YouTube (102.1 billion minutes) and domestic mobile messenger app KakaoTalk (32.5 billion minutes).

TSMC exec expressed ASML sticker shock

A Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) executive argued that Dutch chip equipment maker ASML's next-generation chip-shrinking "High NA EUV" machines may not be necessary for making its upcoming A16, according to news reports.

TSMC's 2-nanometer A16 node is slated for mass production in 2025.

"I like the technology but I don't like the sticker price," reportedly offered senior vice president Kevin Zhang, hinting that older ASML tech could likely do the job. The High NA equipment is predicted to run at over $378 million per machine, compared to a starting point of $217 million for older equipment.

APAC Dealbook

Recent alliances and deals spotted by The Register across the region last week include:

  • NTT Data signed on to provide CRM software Salesforce with digital transformation services.

    "NTT DATA will support the management and development of applications across Salesforce's organization, including its internal instance of Salesforce. The applications span Salesforce Sales, Marketing, Service, Experience, and Commerce Clouds, MuleSoft, Heroku, Slack, and hundreds of third-party and custom apps," stated the IT service and consulting biz.

  • Australian supercomputing facility the Pawsey Center signed local outfit XENON Systems to add 35 petabytes to its Acacia object store, bringing the Ceph-managed rig to 110 petabytes.
  • Japanese automaker Honda signed an MOU with IBM to collaborate on chip and software research for future software-defined vehicles (SDV).

    "Honda and IBM anticipate that SDVs will dramatically increase the design complexity, processing performance, and corresponding power consumption of semiconductors compared to conventional mobility products," explained a press release.

  • German tech company Siemens has signed up with Taiwanese component manufacturer Foxconn to define standards manufacturing processes.

    "This MoU identifies key collaboration areas to increase the level of automation within Foxconn's facilities. These areas include electronics manufacturing services (EMS) and contract design and manufacturing service (CDMS), which is Foxconn's innovative business model for electric vehicles," explained a press release.

    "Both companies will explore initiatives to work towards the factory of the future by implementing Siemens's leading factory automation portfolio and industrial software, including building blocks such as digital twin technology and artificial intelligence (AI)."

Other stories from the region last week included news that Toshiba revealed it was offering early retirement to 4000 workers over the age of 50 as part of a revitalization plan. Google blocked 32 videos of a song commonly mistaken as Hong Kong's national anthem within the borders of the region.

Baidu's robotaxi business unit forecast profitability for 2025. Tariffs on Chinese EVs quadrupled. Softbank sold off its Alibaba stake.

Microsoft maybe offered China-based engineers an option to relocate. And a Chinese cryptomining firm near a nuclear missile base in the US was told to sell its facilities – just in case it turns out to be an espionage operation. ®

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