2011年3月30日 星期三

Obama to Outline Energy Plan


WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama, under pressure to respond to rising gas prices, on Wednesday will outline initiatives to cut U.S. reliance on foreign oil, including plans to expand oil production, increase the use of natural gas in vehicles and boost ethanol production.
He also is promising that the federal government will purchase only alternative-fuel vehicles, such as hybrid and electric cars, by 2015.
Mr. Obama's latest attempt to take the initiative on energy policy comes as Republicans in Congress are stepping up criticism of the administration for not allowing more oil and gas drilling in the U.S. On Tuesday, House Republicans said they would introduce legislation requiring the administration to sell more offshore leases and to issue drilling permits within a set time frame.
The political heat over energy policy is rising in tandem with the price of gasoline and diesel fuels at filling stations, in a ritual that has become familiar in Washington since the oil-price shocks of the mid-1970s. "We've been having this conversation for nearly four decades now," Mr. Obama said during a March 11 news conference. "Every few years, gas prices go up; politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes."
The White House will cast the new effort—a few new ideas combined with many that have been previously announced—as an attempt to deal with the nation's long-term energy challenge, as well as the high gas prices of the moment.
Mr. Obama will put forward an overall goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025, with about half the reduction from decreasing consumption and half from increasing domestic supply, the White House said.
Driving the debate now is consumer grumbling about gasoline prices that are up nearly 15% on average since Feb. 7, according to the Energy Department. In some parts of the country, including southern California, gasoline prices have hit $4 a gallon—the highest levels since the gas-price spike of 2008. Worries over rising prices for gasoline, food and other goods contributed to a sharp drop in consumer confidence in the economic outlook, which had been rebounding since the depths of the recession in 2009, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said in a report last week.
The administration on Tuesday sought to focus attention on oil companies, releasing a report from the Interior Department that said more than two-thirds of the offshore oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico and more than half of onshore leases on federal land aren't in use. These leases give companies the right to drill but are neither producing oil nor under active exploration, the agency said.
"This report shows millions of acres that have already been leased to industry for oil and gas productions sit idle," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. Mr. Obama also raised the issue of unused leases in his March news conference, and his 2012 budget plan included an extra fee on oil companies that hold idle leases. That proposal would need congressional approval.
The White House said it would offer new incentives to more rapidly develop these areas, though it wasn't specific about what they would be. A fact sheet released Wednesday morning said the administration is studying a graduated royalty-rate system used in Texas.
Oil-industry representatives say the administration's complaints about unused leases ignore the reality of the oil-exploration business, in which companies scour large areas to find the relatively few tracts with oil and gas reserves worth developing.
Republicans also have complained that the administration has dragged its feet in issuing permits for new domestic production since it formally lifted a deep-water drilling embargo in the Gulf after the BP PLC oil spill.
"These bills will directly reverse Obama administration actions that have locked-up America's vast offshore oil and natural gas resources," Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement accompanying the bills Republicans outlined on Tuesday.
As part of its effort to reduce oil demand, the White House is setting a goal for the nation to break ground on four new commercial-scale cellulosic or advanced biofuel refineries to produce ethanol in the next two years. It wasn't clear what incentives or financing the administration would propose for the biofuel initiative. The administration is also expected to back new subsidies for governments or companies to purchase vehicles that run on natural gas for their fleets, they said.
The White House had previously said it would continue raising fuel-efficiency standards for cars and establish standards for heavy trucks.
In his 2012 budget, Mr. Obama also proposed tax credits to encourage purchase of electric vehicles.
Mr. Obama also will reiterate a proposal contained in his State of the Union address that the U.S. adopt a standard that would require 80% of electricity to be generated from clean-energy sources by 2035. The administration has defined clean energy as nuclear power, natural gas and clean coal, as well as renewable sources such as wind and solar.
—Ryan Tracy contributed to this article.
Write to Laura Meckler at laura.meckler@wsj.com

2011年3月29日 星期二

日震效應 日藍寶石晶棒廠 來台談代工

  • 2011-03-30
  • 工商時報
  • 【記者吳姿瑩/台北報導】
     隨著LED TV及照明市場需求起飛,目前全球藍寶石晶棒供應商均有計劃擴產,其中又以韓系業者STC的規劃最為積極,市場估計,未來STC若能順利開出產能,將挑戰全球藍寶石晶棒龍頭Rubicon,成為藍寶石晶棒世界級廠商。至於國內藍寶石基板廠,也為提升毛利表現,減少外購藍寶石晶棒料源,接連計畫跨足藍寶石晶棒領域,包括兆晶(4969)轉投資的晶棒廠鑫晶鑽,越峰(8121)旗下台聚光電,以及今年甫上興櫃掛牌的合晶光電(5521)。
     日前韓國三星電子旗下三星LED更與日本住友化學(Sumitomo Chemical),合資設立LED藍寶石矽晶圓(Sapphire Wafer)公司,雙方各持50%股權,共同生產涵蓋藍寶石矽晶錠(Sapphire Ingot)到藍寶石矽晶圓,顯示在LED市況熱絡情形下,各家廠商競相投入藍寶石基板生產,在降低原料成本之外,更可望取代大廠料源。

瑞薩手機晶片 可能轉單台積電

  • 2011-03-30
  • 中國時報
  • 【劉宗志/台北報導】
     彭博社報導,瑞薩電子工廠營運在強震和海嘯侵襲後受影響,現考慮將部份零件委由外國公司生產。其中汽車微控制器擬委託全球晶圓(Globalfoundries)生產,出貨給NTT DoCoMo的手機晶片則可能由台積電代工。
     法人指出,瑞薩供貨給NTT DoCoMo的手機通訊晶片,將委由台積電代工生產,推估單季可為台積電帶來1.2億至1.5億美元營收,粗估占台積電總營收不到約5%。此外,轉單效應是否隨著7月瑞薩停工產線相繼復工而遞減,有待觀察。

China: Subsidized, Not Subprime

MARCH 26, 2011   the wall street journal

China's property sector is a larger but less worrisome animal than its U.S. cousin.
In 2010, investment in residential real estate accounted directly for 12% of China's gross domestic product, up from 10% in 2009 and a record. Throw in demand for construction material, and real estate's contribution is even larger. By contrast, the peak of spending on U.S. residential investment in 2005 was equal to just 6% of GDP.
Bloomberg News
A larger role for real estate in the Chinese economy means the consequences of a bust should be more serious than in the U.S. And recent years offer a worrying precedent. A crackdown on speculation saw growth in real-estate investment fall from 31% a year at the end of 2007 to 3% at the beginning of 2009. The hit to construction spending, as much as the fall in exports, crunched China's GDP growth to a decade low of 6.5%.
At first sight, history appears ready to repeat itself as prices run up sharply. The official house-price data tend to underestimate changes. But data from Soufun Holdings, which runs China's leading property website, show average prices in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai rising considerably faster than disposable incomes.
Meanwhile, breakneck construction in 2009 and 2010 has created an overhang of supply—including the ghost blocks of high-end residential apartments bought for speculative purposes that loom large in the bears' arguments. The government continues to clamp down on speculators. That double whammy will at some point bring the price surge to an end and take the wind out of real-estate developers' sails.
But when private investment fell away in 2008, there was nothing to take its place. This time round, the government plans a huge investment in affordable housing. The thin margins available in affordable construction are cold comfort for listed developers, but plans to build 10 million new budget residences in 2011 should to an extent cushion China's economy from a sharp slowdown in private-sector construction.
In the U.S., post-crash housing is still weighed down by overbuilding in certain hot spots. In China, urbanization and rising wages mean most construction is better underpinned by demand. And houses are generally paid for with cash, not credit. In the U.S., mortgage debt reached 103% of GDP in 2007. In China, long-term loans to households, a proxy for mortgage borrowing, is 16% of GDP. Even throwing in loans to real-estate developers and a share of loans to local government investment vehicles—some of which are invested in property—takes the total only to 50%.
A slowdown in prices, if not an outright decline in some cities, is a distinct possibility. That will hurt private developers. A sharp enough correction will cause the banks pain and hit consumer confidence and spending. But it shouldn't signal economic disaster as it did in the U.S.
Write to Tom Orlik at tom.orlik@dowjones.com

Samsung LED, Sumitomo Chemical Plan Wafer JV


SEOUL—Samsung LED and Japan's Sumitomo Chemical Co. said Monday they will form a joint venture in South Korea to produce sapphire wafers—key materials used to make lighting components in flat-screen televisions and other consumer electronics—to ensure stable supply.

The establishment of the $72 million joint venture comes amid market concerns about a global shortage of wafers following the March 11 earthquake in Japan. According to market research firm IHS iSuppli Corp., Japan's earthquake resulted in the suspension of one-quarter of the global production of silicon wafers used to make semiconductors.

"The suspension of operations at plants could have wide-ranging implications beyond the Japanese electronics industry. A 25% reduction in supply could have a major effect on worldwide semiconductor production," iSuppli said.

A Sumitomo Chemical spokesman said the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan had no direct impact on the company and said the latest joint-venture plan isn't related to the disasters, which have fueled market concerns about a potential shortage of some key electronics components following a disruption to operations at some local technology companies.
Samsung LED said in a regulatory filing Monday that it will invest $36 million in the 50-50 joint venture with the Japanese company. The venture will produce sapphire ingot and then use the material to make sapphire wafers. The wafers will then be used by Samsung exclusively in light-emitting diode chips. A Sumitomo Chemical spokesman confirmed the arrangement.
"Sapphire ingot is a very important component for making wafers used in LEDs, but its price rose sharply last year, so we did see only a limited supply of the material," said a Samsung LED spokesman who declined to be named.
Samsung LED is a joint venture between Samsung Electronics Co. and its affiliate Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co.
"We are setting up this joint venture with Sumitomo Chemical as the Japanese company is the global No. 1 for a core material in making the ingot and the wafer. We expect this partnership will help us gain further technology competitiveness in the LED market," he said.

Samsung declined to comment about the earthquake and its possible impact on the wafer market.
The joint venture plans to set up a production plant this year and mass produce wafers from early 2012, the Samsung LED spokesman said.

Samsung LED previously had a roster of suppliers for key components, both at home and abroad, the spokesman said, adding that about five companies supply around 90% of the global supply of sapphire ingot.

According to a research firm Displaybank, the global sapphire wafer market is expected to grow to $1.5 billion in 2014 from $554.9 million last year.






日本生產的硅片佔到世界總產量的60%。硅片是製造計算機芯片的基本元件。受地震影響﹐日本兩家硅片工廠停產﹐世界硅片供應因此減少四分之一。瑞士信貸(Credit Suisse)說﹐日本生產的用於製造印刷電路板的BT樹脂佔全球總產量的90%。

似乎硅片和BT樹脂的庫存量目前還能維持一段時間﹐但其它產品的供應受阻則造成了更為直接的影響。例如﹐日立公司(Hitachi Ltd.)旗下一家製造空氣流量傳感器的工廠停業﹐全球汽車製造商都為此受到影響。這家工廠位於東京以北﹐這種傳感器被用作測定進入發動機的空氣流量。

日立製造的空氣流量傳感器佔世界總供給的60%﹐它的停業講述了一個現代版的“少了個釘子”就無法組裝成品的故事。通用汽車公司(General Motors Co.)本週被迫關閉了美國路易斯安那州的一座工廠﹐標致雪鐵龍集團(Peugeot-Citroen)旗下大多數歐洲工廠也因此被迫減產。



日本是世界第四大出口國﹐卡特彼勒公司(Caterpillar Inc.)等企業利用日本作為製造設備的平台﹐然後再把這些設備銷往中國和其它國家。





現在最難預測的一個情況是硅片供應﹐這是一種大小如餐盤一般的磁盤﹐是製造芯片的基礎元件。據研究公司IHS iSuppli的估計﹐日本生產的硅片約佔全球總供應的60%﹐地震後有兩個硅片生產廠停產﹐它們的產量約佔全球硅片出貨量的25%。

全球最大的芯片分銷商之一Arrow Electronics Inc.的執行副總裁和首席財務長瑞利(Paul Reilly)說﹐這是一種長期挑戰﹐我們正對此保持密切關注。



在日本大範圍地震災區里﹐瑞薩電子(Renesas Electronics Corp.)有八個工廠目前處於不同程度的恢復當中。該公司是全球微控制器的最大製造商﹐微控制器是一種控制汽車、消費設備和數千種產品電子操作的芯片。

另外一個生產各種應用軟件芯片的公司ON Semiconductor Corp.在日本地震災區有六家工廠﹐這些工廠的主要問題是斷電。

東芝公司(Toshiba Corp.)與合作伙伴晟碟公司(SanDisk Corp.)生產閃存芯片的工廠基本上不存在這些問題。它們生產的芯片用於蘋果公司(Apple Inc.)智能手機iPhone和平板電腦iPad等熱銷產品當中。但東芝的另一家芯片製造廠與一個生產液晶顯示面板的工廠受到破壞。

德州儀器公司(Texas Instruments Inc.)給出的受地震影響而停工的情況最為詳細﹐它說位於日本美秀(Miho)的工廠在今年9月以前不太可能恢復全面出貨。這家工廠的收入佔德州儀器公司2010年總收入的10%左右。

Don Clark / Lorraine Luk

China Unicom's Net Plunges 60%


BEIJING—China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. said Tuesday its net profit fell 60% last year as the company spent heavily on handset subsidies to attract users to its third-generation mobile services.
The results mark the second consecutive year for which China Unicom's net income has dropped by more than half, as the company has made significant investments to introduce its 3G business. China Unicom, the country's second-largest mobile operator by subscribers after China MobileLtd., has faced growing competition in the mobile area since it sold its code-division-multiple-access mobile business to China Telecom Corp. in 2008 and transformed into a nationwide full-service operator offering fixed-line, broadband and mobile services.
China Unicom is competing with China Telecom and China Mobile to attract users for 3G services, which offer faster data speeds and higher revenue per user.
Bloomberg News
A man passes a China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. phone booth in Beijing on Tuesday.
China Unicom said its net profit fell to 3.85 billion yuan ($586.5 million) last year from 9.56 billion yuan in 2009. Revenue rose 11% to 171.3 billion yuan from 153.95 billion yuan.
The company warned in January that it expected its net profit to have fallen by more than half last year, despite growing revenue, because of rising costs for 3G handset subsidies and high depreciation and amortization fees.
The company set its capital-expenditure budget for 2011 at 73.8 billion yuan, up slightly from 2010 spending of 70.2 billion yuan.
China Unicom's supply of Apple's iPhone 4 handsets remains adequate despite the earthquake in Japan, Chief Executive Chang Xiaobing said at a news briefing. The quake has disrupted supply chains for some device makers.
"It is difficult to predict the long-term impact," Mr. Chang said.
Mr. Chang also said the company has no timetable yet to offer Apple's iPad tablet computer. Apple already sells the iPad in China, but only versions without third-generation mobile connectivity, and China Unicom doesn't yet offer the devices. Unicom, the sole telecommunications carrier to offer the iPhone in mainland China, said last year that it hopes to offer the iPad as soon as possible.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
China Unicom will offer services for BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion Ltd. by June, China Unicom President Lu Yimin said.
Mr. Lu said China Unicom aims to add at least 35 million mobile users this year, including at least 25 million 3G users. The company had 16.7 million 3G users and 154.9 million users of its second-generation mobile services at the end of February. That trails China Mobile's 24.5 million 3G users at the end of February.
China Unicom recommended a final dividend of eight fen a share, down from 16 fen a year earlier.

Siemens Overhaul Includes Unit Spinoff


Siemens AG detailed a dramatic restructuring that includes spinning off its Osram unit, the world's second-largest lighting company, and creating a new division aimed at better positioning the German engineering giant in the growing market for green infrastructure.
The reorganization, which Chief Executive Peter Löscher presented to the company's supervisory board Monday, marks the most ambitious restructuring effort undertaken by Mr. Löscher since his first year at the helm of Siemens in 2007. The aim, he said in a statement, was to spur faster growth and push Siemens's business volume past €100 billion ($141 billion) within a few years, from €76 billion in sales last fiscal year.
As part of the plan, Siemens plans to take Osram public in the fall of this year in what would probably be one of the largest German initial public offerings in years. Siemens said it planned to retain a minority stake in the light-bulb unit and remain a long-term anchor shareholder.
Osram, which trails only Royal Philips Electronics NV in sales in the lighting industry, is one of Siemens's more profitable businesses, generating a profit of €569 million$802 million) last fiscal year on revenue of €4.7 billion. But analysts said Osram's transition further into light-emitting diodes, or LED, and other energy-efficient technologies, plus growing competition from new rivals, such as electronics companies, will require stepped up capital investments.
"With the IPO, we want to give Osram complete entrepreneurial freedom to comprehensively further develop its leading competitive position in a lighting market being swept by technological changes," Mr. Löscher said in a statement.
The reorganization also calls for pooling an array of businesses from its wide-ranging industry and energy divisions into a fourth company sector, to be called Infrastructure & Cities. The move is a step in Siemens's strategy to reposition and market itself as a giant in green infrastructure, an area where it competes with General Electric Co.
In particular, Siemens has targeted the world's swelling cities, where more than half of the global population now lives, and their growing need for more energy-efficient transportation, power supplies and other infrastructure as a major source of growth. The new division would include Siemens's mobility, building technologies and power distribution subdivisions—which include businesses such as the company's smart-electricity-grid activities—as well as Osram as it prepares that business for the IPO, the company said.
Within Siemens, the move is seen as the culmination of a broad reorganization put in motion by Mr. Löscher shortly after he took the helm of the engineering conglomerate in 2007. Then, Siemens's broad array of businesses, which range from high-speed trains to medical-imaging equipment to wind turbines and power plants, were recarved into three main divisions: industry, energy and health care.
But within the company and among many investors, the industry division—which employs 200,000 people and generated nearly half of Siemens's total revenue last year—has been considered too vast and unwieldy to manage efficiently.
As part of the reorganization, Siemens said it will appoint three new members to its management board. Roland Busch, currently its head of corporate strategies, will become chief executive of the new Infrastructure & Cities division. Klaus Helmrich, head of drive technologies, will become the board's technology chief. Michael Süss, head of its fossil-power generation division, will take over Siemens's energy division, succeeding Wolfgang Dehen, who will leave the board to become Osram's chief executive.
Write to Vanessa Fuhrmans at vanessa.fuhrmans@wsj.com


2011.03.30   【中央社╱台北29日電】

英特爾(Intel)新發表第3代固態硬碟(Solin-State Drive,SSD),採用25奈米(nm)NAND快閃記憶體製程技術,發揮成本優勢,讓售價較第2代低3成,且效能更好。
美國網路零售商Newegg.com網站管理與顧客服務部門行銷副總裁Bernard Luthi表示,固態硬碟在運算市場是熱門趨勢。
英特爾表示,固態硬碟不僅耐撞、省電,也突破傳統硬碟(Hard Disk Drive,HDD)的效能瓶頸,可加快電腦開機、開啟檔案和喜愛的應用程式等的作業速度;使用者將傳統硬碟升級到固態硬碟可獲得大幅度的效能提升,甚至,整體系統的反應速度可提高66%。
英特爾表示,新發布的固態硬碟採用每秒3gigabit(3gbps)的SATA II介面,可為大部分也用SATA II介面的個人電腦提供SSD升級支援,高效能的隨機讀取與寫入速度,將改變使用者日常運算的經驗。
另外,英特爾第3代架構採用專利的韌體與控制器,運用備用空間來作備援功能,即使供電中斷也能讓使用者的資料獲得充分保護;新一代也均內建128位元先進加密標準(Advanced Encryption Standard),當硬碟遭竊或遺失時不會外洩個人資料。

iPhone 5 台灣供應鏈尚未出貨

2011.03.30   【經濟日報╱記者黃晶琳/台北報導】

蘋果第五代智慧型手機iPhone 5 上市時程備受市場關注,市場臆測iPhone 5上市計畫恐延遞,台灣供應商表示,目前尚未接獲蘋果出貨時程的計畫通知,依此推估,下半年出貨機會較大。
外電消息指出,供應鏈消息傳出蘋果尚未開始訂購iPhone 5 的零組件,預估iPhone 5應該是下半年才會上市。
台灣供應鏈也表示,iPhone 5加入的NFC(近距離傳輸)技術,而近期零組件都進入試產階段而已,依照過去iPhone系列智慧型手機的出貨規畫,通常6月上市的手機,3月起零組件就會開始陸續出貨,目前尚未接到蘋果指示,因此目前還沒有確切的出貨時程表。
市場也擔憂日本地震將影響蘋果主要產品包含iPod、iPhone、iPad等系列產品供應鏈斷鏈,將影響整體訂單計畫,供應商則認為,今年蘋果對於iPhone 5的訂單進度從2月到3月都沒有明顯的變化,供應鏈應該不受影響。

法人表示,去年第一季蘋果宣布推出iPad,年中推出iPhone 4,下半年推出CDMA版本的iPhone 4,今年3月又宣布推出iPad 2產品,馬不停蹄發表新產品,多少分散了蘋果公司的內部資源,市場也臆測,未來蘋果可能會維持上、下半年各出一個重點產品的慣例,因此iPhone 5出貨時點應該落在下半年。
法人分析,加上iPhone 4推出後,銷售都持續維持暢旺,加上CDMA版本的iPhone 4版本才剛推出,因此蘋果不需急著推出新的iPhone 5。
目前蘋果主要代工廠商為鴻海、和碩,面板及觸控螢幕供應商則為勝華、友達、奇美電,機殼供應商鴻準、可成,石英元件供應商晶技等。法人認為,雖然iPhone 5要等到下半年才會推出,但是隨著iPhone 4持續暢銷,以及iPad 2推出熱賣,蘋果供應鏈訂單仍可望持續成長。

戴爾收回採購權 零件廠受惠

2011.03.30   【經濟日報╱記者李立達/台北報導】


戴爾搭載英特爾新處理器平台Sandy Bridge的新款商務NB本月下旬開始生產,下月放量,業界指出,此款機種已由戴爾自行採購機構零組件,此策略是否推至戴爾的消費機種,業界仍在觀察。
戴爾原本委由仁寶採購的機構零組件,本月下旬起商務機款已改由戴爾直接採購,戴爾零組件供應商可望取得較優惠價格。先前戴爾將NB關鍵機構件的零組件採購權釋出,為Light Touch策略,此次收回零組件採購權,被內部稱為Heavy Touch 。

歐斯朗 將分拆上市

2011.03.30   【經濟日報╱編譯季晶晶/綜合外電】

這是西門子執行長羅旭德(Peter Loscher)自2007年上任以來最大刀闊斧的改組計畫,西門子未來將聚焦能源、健康照護和基礎設施產品。羅旭德說,組織調整是為了追求更快速的成長,推動營收在數年內挑戰千億歐元,超越上年度的760億歐元。
西門子另把工業及能源部門的部分業務集中起來,成立新部門基設與城市(Infrastructure & Cities),未來會主導西門子的行動通訊、建築科技和電力配送等單位,有助該集團重新定位以轉型成綠色基礎建設的巨擘,與奇異(GE)分庭抗禮。
西門子同時任命三位新成員加入高階管理委員會,包括將帶領基設與城市部門的布許(Roland Busch)、即將出任科技長的漢瑞契(Klaus Helmrich)及接手能源部門的薩斯(Michael Suss)。原能源部門主管迪恩(Wolfgang Dehen )將離開管理委員會,出任歐斯朗執行長。

2011年3月28日 星期一

宏碁營收凍 受寒供應鏈一覽

2011/03/28   【經濟日報╱記者李立達/台北報導】

PC業從開春以來,利空消息不斷;從英特爾的新款處理器Sandy Bridge晶片組出現瑕疵,導致全球召回,至日本東北強震,恐震斷PC上游關鍵零組件,而有斷鏈危機;再加上蘋果iPad熱賣,衝擊電腦業。宏碁財報示警,PC業風聲鶴唳,預估將對台股造成衝擊。

2011年3月27日 星期日

BlackBerry Maker's Slow-Motion Decline


It should be evident by now that a corporate tragedy is under way at the proud Canadian firmResearch In Motion.
The manner in which the firm has now squandered the early technological lead and brand recognition it had in BlackBerry mobile-email devices is astonishing. Take its PlayBook tablet, unveiled six months ago but only going on sale next month, weeks after the second version ofApple's iPad hit store shelves.
RIM posted a jump in quarterly earnings, but the BlackBerry maker issued a weak outlook for the current period and shares were down sharply on Friday. What can RIM do to win investor favor? Also: RIM says its new tablet will run Google Android apps.
Despite being behind Apple, the first version of the PlayBook won't have cellular capability. Users will be able to use WiFi for Web access. But even then, users will need to connect the Playbook to their BlackBerry to read email delivered from BlackBerry servers. RIM is planning to add cell capability in future versions, which also could cause some potential buyers to wait.
Yet this is the device that RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie says "may well be the most significant development for RIM" since the first BlackBerry was launched in 1999. Tellingly, Mr. Balsillie had started to say it "will be the most significant development" but corrected himself, perhaps realizing the hole he was digging himself into.
RIM doesn't seem to expect a blowout launch. It projects May quarter revenue to grow 24% to 33%, based on expectations of early PlayBook sales and a 21% to 29% increase in BlackBerry shipments. That guidance also reflects a change in the mix of handsets toward lower-priced devices like the Curve 8520. Worryingly, RIM made a similar statement a year ago about the 8520, now a nearly two-year-old pre-3G device.
Perhaps the company should be called Research In Slow Motion.
Write to Martin Peers at martin.peers@wsj.com

China's Banks—It Ain't Pretty But It Works


China's banks are strange beasts. The government is their main shareholder; regulators set a ceiling on deposit rates and a floor on lending rates; and loans can be dictated as much by political as financial logic.
But as Western governments also are up to their elbows in the banking sector, the Chinese model no longer looks quite as strange as it once did.
And, for now at least, China's banks are delivering growth for the economy and a return for investors.
Bank of China was the first big Chinese financial firm to deliver results Thursday, showing profit for 2010 up 28% for the year. Its nonperforming loan ratio dipped to 1.10% from 1.52% a year earlier and the absolute level of nonperforming loans also fell.
The forecasts for rivals are similarly positive.
Unlike some big international banks, the Chinese model is fairly straightforward: Take in deposits and make loans. With the ceiling for deposit rates and the floor for lending rates set by the government, the net interest margin is currently 3.06 percentage points.
In 2011, with policy in tightening mode, the banks won't be able to push as many loans out the door as they are used to. But constraints on the availability of credit mean that banks may have more pricing power, allowing them to charge higher rates above the floor set by regulators, while deposit rates currently remain constrained by the regulatory ceiling.
The hope is that this margin is enough to offset weaker loan growth and the possibility of rising delinquencies as the economy settles into a lower rate of growth.
The caveat is that a receding economic tide could expose weakness.
In the last two years, the loan book for the sector as a whole has expanded by more than 50%. That can't have come without compromising credit standards. Exposure to real estate developers accounts for 19% of banks' loan book, and estimates suggest loans to local government investment entities account for another 20%.
These are correlated risks. A sharp correction in the property sector would hit real-estate developers and knock down the value of land which local governments rely on to repay their loans.
In an economy that is still expected to grow at more than 9% this year, bad loans may rise, but they aren't likely to skyrocket. The banks have made some provision in an anticipation of tougher times ahead. Another year of strong results will give them an opportunity to do more.
After two years of frenzied lending, they would do well to seize that opportunity.