Netflix pilots $4 mobile plan in India to woo users

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Netflix Inc is testing a 250 rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, the video streaming giant said, aiming to boost its presence in a price-sensitive market where data consumption on smartphones is surging.

FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

California-based Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, ranging from 500 rupees to 800 rupees, but those are still expensive compared with similar offerings from rivals.

Amazon’s Prime service, which offers video streaming, music and faster shipping of purchases, is priced at 999 rupees a year while local rival Hotstar has a free service as well paid plans starting at 365 rupees a year.

Netflix’s test plan at 250 rupees a month gives users access to standard definition video on smartphones and tablets, a company spokesman said.

“We will be testing different options in select countries where members can, for example, watch Netflix on their mobile device for a lower price and subscribe in shorter increments of time,” he added.

Netflix’s Indian roster includes blockbuster originals such as “Sacred Games”, global superhits such as “Narcos” as well as Indian cinema. However, its premium pricing is seen by critics as a stumbling block to bulking up its Indian user base.

Chief Executive Reed Hastings told Reuters late last year that Netflix had no plans for cheaper prices in India, where it aims to win its next 100 million subscribers.

The company emphasized on Tuesday that the new plan is a test and the company might not roll out these specific plans beyond the tests.

Netflix’s strategy to launch the test for mobile devices in India comes against the backdrop of rising demand for smartphones in the world’s second-biggest mobile phone market with more than 1.1 billion wireless connections.

Aspirational buyers looking for bigger screens and better user experience are likely to spend more on their second or third smartphones, pushing up the average selling price by 18 percent from last year to $190, said Tarun Pathak of technology researcher Counterpoint.

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by David Goodman

Bahrain to use Huawei in 5G rollout despite U.S. warnings

DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, plans to roll out a commercial 5G mobile network by June, partly using Huawei technology despite the United States’ concerns the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment could be used for spying.

FILE PHOTO: Logos of Huawei are pictured outside its shop in Beijing, China, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology, saying Huawei could be used by Beijing to spy on the West. China has rejected the accusations.

VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian state-controlled telecom STC, last month signed an agreement to use Huawei products in its 5G network, one of several Gulf telecoms firms working with the Chinese company.

“We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards,” Bahrain’s Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed told Reuters on Tuesday when asked about U.S. concerns over Huawei technology.

The U.S. embassy in Bahrain did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet uses its base in Bahrain, a Western-allied island state off the Saudi coast, to patrol several important shipping lanes, including near Iran.

Bahrain expects to be one of the first countries to make 5G available nationwide, Mohammed said, although he cautioned it would depend on handset and equipment availability.

Early movers like the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are just starting to roll out their 5G networks, but other regions, such as Europe, still years away and the first 5G phones are only likely to be released in the second half of this year.

Bahrain’s state controlled operator Batelco is working with Sweden’s Ericsson on its 5G network, while the country’s third telecom Zain Bahrain is yet to announce a technology provider.

No foreign company is restricted by the government from providing equipment for Bahrain’s 5G network, Mohammed said, adding that the mobile operators chose who they worked with.

Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks but the European Union is expected to ignore U.S. calls to ban the Chinese company, instead urging countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks.

Mohammed said the rollout of the 5G network was an “important milestone” for Bahrain, which is hoping investments in technology will help spur the economy which was hit hard by the drop in oil prices.

“It is something we are proud to have,” he said.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

Micron sees memory chip recovery coming later in year, shares rise

(Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc on Wednesday said it sees a recovery in the memory chip market coming and reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates as cost controls helped offset falling demand and prices, sending its shares up nearly 5 percent.

The logo of U.S. memory chip maker MicronTechnology is pictured at their booth at an industrial fair in Frankfurt, Germany, July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Micron makes NAND storage chips that are used in phones and internet servers as well as DRAM chips that help computer processors communicate with those storage chips.

The company beat revenue expectations for the fiscal second quarter ended Feb. 28. Although it gave a forecast for its fiscal third quarter that was below Wall Street’s expectations, Micron said demand is likely to begin growing again by its fourth quarter.

The results come against the backdrop of a glut in the global semiconductor industry triggered by waning demand for smartphones and spotty purchasing patterns by cloud-computing vendors, which hurt chipmakers such as Intel Corp earlier this year.

Meantime, Micron trimmed its spending plans and said it had idled some factory lines to bring its chip output in line with lower demand, helping keep profits flowing and a share buyback plan on track.

For its fiscal second quarter, Micron generated nearly $1 billion in free cash flow and a profit of $1.71 per share, excluding items. That was down from $2.82 a year earlier but above Wall Street expectations of $1.67, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

“Certainly Micron has not been in a situation before where it’s been able to deliver such healthy profitability and cash flow in an adverse industry environment,” Chief Executive Sanjay Mehrotra said in an interview with Reuters.

Kinngai Chan, an analyst with Summit Insights Group, said investors were focusing on the outlook for a recovery in the second half of the calendar year, with the fiscal third quarter forecast representing “the bottom for Micron’s near-term sales and gross margin.”

The Boise, Idaho-based company said on Wednesday it expects revenue between $4.6 billion and $5 billion for its fiscal third quarter, falling short of analyst expectations of $5.3 billion according to IBES data from Refinitiv. The company cut planned capital expenditures for the 2019 fiscal year to $9 billion, Micron executives said, down from a previous forecast of between $9 billion and $9.5 billion.

Revenue fell to $5.84 billion from $7.35 billion, beating expectations of $5.3 billion.

The company said it bought back 21 million shares of its common stock for $702 million during the quarter as part of its $10 billion share buyback program, leaving a net cash position of $2.99 billion.

Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Leslie Adler