China smartphone makers join hands on apps, pose threat to WeChat

WeChat, which has more than 1 billion users, last year launched “mini-programs” within the app that look and operate much like apps on Apple Inc’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems but are far less data-intensive. (Reuters)
Updated 21 March 2018
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China smartphone makers join hands on apps, pose threat to WeChat

HONG KONG: China’s biggest smartphone makers are collaborating to promote download-free “fast apps,” in a move backed by the government and likely to threaten Tencent Holdings’ grip on mobile traffic with its wildly popular WeChat app.
The messenger-to-payment app WeChat, which has more than 1 billion users, last year launched “mini-programs” within the app that look and operate much like apps on Apple Inc’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems but are far less data-intensive.
Tencent has said WeChat is not a challenge to the dominant mobile platforms, but some analysts and developers say the new business could eat into that of iOS and Android app ecosystem, as they take a cut from app purchases.
Since its launch, WeChat’s mini-programs have lured some consumers away from those app stores.
The “fast apps” are similar, HTML-based lite apps that can be instantly launched without downloading and introduced by a group of 10 Chinese smartphone vendors and a government agency, they said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The partners in the alliance are Xiaomi Technology, ZTE Corp., Huawei Technologies, Gionee, Lenovo Group, Meizu, Nubia, OPPO, Vivo, OnePlus, and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
They will standardize formats so that app developers need to just design one “fast app,” instead of 10 “fast apps” tweaked to each vendor’s hardware.
The open platform will form a new mobile traffic ecosystem which will be more efficient and convenient for users totaling nearly 1 billion among the 10 vendors, the statement said.
Xiaomi, which said there are already more than 100 “fast apps” in its app store, told Reuters the alliance is aimed at enhancing user experience and is not targeting any particular company.
“Fast app” versions of some of the most popular apps in China, such as news aggregator Toutiao and travel booking site Ctrip, can be found in the Mi app store with an “instant launch” mark next to them.
Smartphone makers plan to promote the “fast apps” through AI-enhanced recommendations, they said in the statement.
Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Potential SABIC deal would affect Saudi Aramco IPO time frame, says CEO Nasser

Updated 20 July 2018
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Potential SABIC deal would affect Saudi Aramco IPO time frame, says CEO Nasser

JEDDAH: A potential deal to buy a stake in petrochemical maker SABIC would affect the time frame of Saudi Aramco's initial public offering (IPO), the oil firm's president and CEO Amin H. Nasser said Friday. 

The IPO of around 5 percent of Aramco, which was initially to take place this year but is now more likely to happen later, would be the world's biggest listing, raising up to $100 billion.

Nasser said that buying a stake in a chemical company like SABIC would positively affect Aramco's revenue, Al Arabiya reported.

“We are still in the very early stages of the discussion to buy a stake in SABIC,” the Aramco CEO said.

“Aramco is ready for the initial offer and the timing remains subject to the state's decision.”

Saudi Aramco said on Thursday it is looking at the possibility of buying a stake in SABIC, a move that could boost the state oil giant’s market valuation ahead of the planned IPO.
Aramco said in a statement that it was in “very early-stage discussions” with the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) to acquire the stake in SABIC via a private transaction. It has no plans to acquire any publicly held shares, it said.
In a separate statement, PIF also said talks about a sale were in early stages. “There is a possibility that no agreement will be reached in relation to this potential transaction,” it said.