The digital business week

21 Jun 2010

A digest of the top business and technology news stories from the past week.

Medical-devices firm creates 40 new Dublin jobs

Medical-devices firm Biotrin has announced the creation of 40 high-end jobs as it invests in a new R&D project in Dublin.

Biotrin, which is owned by Italian Diagnostic company Diasorin, is a leading developer and manufacturer of diagnostic platform technology.

Its new project in Dublin, which is supported by the Irish Government through IDA Ireland, will involve the development of automated molecular diagnostics platform technology and assay reagents for the detection of target DNA and RNA in infectious diseases. It will be based on a new molecular diagnostics technology called loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP).

The venture establishes the Dublin site as Diasorin’s corporate headquarters for molecular diagnostics R&D and will bring the total job number at the facility to more than 100 people.

Digicel revenues up 12pc to US$2.2bn

Denis O’Brien’s Digicel Group has recorded revenues of US$2.2bn for the year, up 12p on last year. Growth was driven largely by data, postpaid and BlackBerry revenues.

With subscribers up 15pc to 10.8 million across all 32 markets – driven in particular by major growth in the Central American and Pacific markets – Digicel closed out the year with revenues of US$2.2bn. This represents a 12pc gain year on year and a compound annual growth rate of 24pc from 2007 to 2010 when all Digicel markets are included.

In terms of Digicel Group Limited (which comprises 24 markets across the Caribbean and El Salvador), revenues were US$1.75bn – up 1pc year on year and 5pc in constant currency terms – with EBITDA margin increasing to 43pc, up from 39pc the previous year.

In those 24 markets, Digicel achieved a significant 31pc growth in data revenues year on year while the postpaid subscriber base grew by a considerable 18pc year on year. Digicel also continued to lead the way across the region in the provision of BlackBerry services, with BlackBerry user numbers going up by 138pc.

Digicel Group CEO Colm Delves comments: “It’s been another great year for Digicel. Our promise and commitment to our customers to deliver best value, best service and best network is continuing to translate into sustained growth and strong performance resulting in us once again over delivering against all of our internal targets.

AOL sells Bebo for undisclosed sum

Internet company AOL has sold social-networking site Bebo to a private investment firm, Criterion Capital Partners.

AOL bought Bebo for US$850m only two years ago. The amount it sold the social-networking firm for was not disclosed.

However, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that AOL would only get back a “small fraction” of what it paid for the firm.

AOL announced it intended to sell Bebo back in April, telling staff in an internal email that the business had been declining and would need a significant investment to be rejuvenated.

The email read: “Bebo, unfortunately, is a business that has been declining and, as a result, would require significant investment in order to compete in the competitive social-networking space. AOL is not in a position at this time to further fund and support Bebo in pursuing a turnaround in social networking.”

Toshiba, Fujitsu to merge mobile phone businesses 

Japanese electronics giants Toshiba and Fujitsu have announced they have agreed a deal to merge their mobile-phone businesses.

Under the terms of the agreement, Toshiba will transfer its mobile-phone business to a new company to be established in October of this year, with Fujitsu acquiring a majority of the shares in this company.

The two firms say that by merging their mobile-phone businesses they are aiming to become the No 1 provider of mobile phones in Japan.

Toshiba and Fujitsu said they intend to use their backgrounds in designing compact, functional handsets to develop “highly competitive next-generation handsets” for the expanding smartphone market.

“By combining their mobile-phone development know-how and technological strengths, Fujitsu and Toshiba intend on enhancing their handset development capabilities and at the same time improving business efficiency,” the companies said in a joint statement.

The two firms said they intend to sign a final contract on the deal at the end of July.

Financial Regulator approves Realex’s Carapay platform

A pioneering new cross-border mobile and web payment instrument for consumers and businesses – that will eradicate the need for cash and cheques – developed by Realex has been licensed by the Financial Regulator, it emerged this morning.

Carapay is an online payment account or payment instrument – it is a new way to pay and be paid. It opens up a promising new export model for Realex as the Carapay licence may be “pass-ported” to other EU states.

“For several years now, we have been waiting for a new regulatory environment that would allow us to enter into payment processing in a more significant way,” Carapay founder and CEO Colm Lyon said.

3 Ireland hits 500,000-customer milestone

Mobile network 3 has hit the milestone of more than 500,000 customers subscribing to its voice and data services, of which more than 200,000 are mobile broadband users.

3 entered the Irish mobile services market in 2005 and was the first company to launch a high-speed mobile broadband service in Ireland.

The business is continuing to grow from strength to strength and earlier this year the Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary announced a multi-million euro investment to open 28 new stores around the country, resulting in 90 new jobs.

The company will have 50 3Stores nationwide by the end of 2010.

Irish firm in landmark research deal with Taiwanese govt

Irish energy technology company SolarPrint, which develops photo-voltaic (PV) energy technologies, today announced that it has entered into a research partnership agreement with the Taiwanese Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), one of the largest research centres of its kind in the world, with a budget of more than US$500m.

The partnership is for the joint development of new PV solutions that can be used in consumer applications.

PV technology involves the conversion of light – not just sunlight – into energy. It is growing in research significance for governments and industry, as the world moves towards environmentally friendly energy production technologies.
Under the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding that has been signed by SolarPrint and the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), the company will collaborate with ITRI on the development of PV technologies that can be used in consumer devices, such as mobile phones and laptops.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years