A week in tech, June 9 - 15

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A round-up of all the latest tech news.

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• Softbank Corp. announced that it swung back to profit in the January-March quarter, results that it ascribed to strong sales in the company's broadband business. The firm said its net income hit ¥39.7 billion ($358 million) in the fiscal fourth quarter, compared with a loss of ¥27.2 billion ($238.6 million) a year earlier. Its quarterly sales posted an 8.4-percent growth to ¥298.4 billion ($2.6 billion) from ¥275.2 billion ($2.4 billion) a year ago. Its profits from its broadband service using ADSL continued to rise following a subscription gain of more than 5 million subscribers. Its fixed-line telephone business saw an improvement, as it generated an operating profit of ¥2.9 billion ($26.4 million) compared to an operating loss it registered a year earlier and in the previous quarter. For the 2005 fiscal year, Softbank reported a net income of ¥57.5 billion ($518.8 million) compared to a loss of ¥59.8 billion ($524.6 million) a year earlier. It posted a 32.5 percent growth in its sales to ¥1.1 trillion ($10 billion) from ¥837 billion ($7.3 billion) a year earlier.

• Ebara, a Japanese company that makes semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, announced that it has entered an agreement that will allow it to conduct research at Albany NanoTech. The three-year agreement is placed at about $5 million. With this move, the Tokyo-based Ebara becomes the latest semiconductor equipment company to join Albany NanoTech, a $3 billion partnership involving the University at Albany's College of Nano-scale Science and Engineering and semiconductor companies. Ebara posted $4.5 billion in sales in 2005. Equipment manufacturers Tokyo Electron of Japan and Applied Materials of California are two other companies with research-and-development agreements with Albany NanoTech.

• Sony Corp. said it is looking to get ¥17 billion ($150 million) in profit from its sale of retail businesses in the year to next March. The Japanese electronics and entertainment firm announced the completion of a transaction that saw it forming a holding company for several non-core businesses and said it sold a 51 percent stake in it to Nikko Principal Investments Japan, a unit of Nikko Cordial Group Corp. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

• The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced its decision to urge Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. to cut the fees it charges other communications services providers for using its fiber-optic lines as early as fiscal 2008. The ministry's committee on competition in the telecommunications market is expected to include the reduction plan in its report due out July, the sources said. Having seen ADSL services rapidly expanded throughout the nation after lowering access fees, the ministry expects the same result in the fiber-optic services. It expects lower fees to encourage new service providers to enter the market, and therefore lower the charges for end-users. NTT dominates the fiber-optic communications market with about a 60 percent share. It provides fiber-optic access to households at ¥5,074 ($44) per month. Other providers borrowing the lines from NTT charge about ¥6,000 ($52) per month from households after covering part of the fees they have to pay to NTT.
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