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Your Week in Asia

CES trade show, TSMC results, Indonesia vaccinations

Your weekly lineup of Asia's biggest business and political events

CES, typically a major gathering of tech companies and experts from around the world, will be held online this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.   © Reuters

Welcome to Your Week in Asia.

This week will kick off with CES, the annual technology trade show in Las Vegas. It will be held virtually for the first time in its 53-year history, which seems appropriate given the strong pandemic-induced demand for games, computers and other consumer electronics.

Another beneficiary of robust electronics sales is Taiwanese chip giant TSMC, which is expected to post double-digit sales growth when it reports results on Thursday. Uniqlo and other Japanese retailers are also expected to declare results, just days after the country announced a monthlong state of emergency due to rising coronavirus cases.

Indonesia plans to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination this week, offering a bit of hope amid record infection rates in the Southeast Asian country.

MONDAY

CES held until Thursday

CES 2021, one of the largest technology trade shows in the world, will kick off on Monday. Unlike previous years, this year's event will be online only as tech executives and industry experts participate remotely from across the globe instead of gathering in Las Vegas.

What's different: The first virtual CES will also be dramatically scaled back with only around 1,000 companies, compared to over 4,000 last year. However, many Asian tech heavyweights, including Samsung and Panasonic, are still scheduled to appear.

Big "Taiwan" passports

Taiwan will unveil new passports with a new look on Monday. The word "Taiwan" will be featured prominently on the cover, while the words "Republic of China" -- the democratic-ruled island's formal name -- will be printed in smaller letters. The idea is to avoid confusion with Chinese passports. Last July, Taiwan's congress urged the administration of Tsai Ing-wen to change the design, claiming the words "Republic of China" on the current version would lead Taiwanese nationals to be mistaken for Chinese. This was a big issue in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, when China was at the epicenter of the outbreak.

U.S. trading ban on select Chinese stocks kicks in

American investors will be banned by an executive order from trading securities of 35 Chinese companies, including chipmaker SMIC, oil major CNOOC and surveillance company Hikvision, which have been identified as having links to the nation's military. Three state-run telecommunications companies, including China Mobile, will be booted off the New York Stock Exchange, while index compiler FTSE Russell has removed 11 companies from its indexes and MSCI has dropped at least seven. Media reports have indicated that Alibaba Group and Tencent may also be banned by the U.S.

TUESDAY

Seven-Eleven owner announces Q3 earnings

Seven & i Holdings, operator of convenience store chain Seven-Eleven, will report third-quarter earnings on Tuesday. With more people staying at home due to the pandemic, existing store sales in Seven-Eleven Japan declined in October and November. Challenges are expected to continue after Japan declared a state of emergency last week. "With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, customers will become more aware of the need to protect their everyday lives in 2021," said President Ryuichi Isaka in a New Year's message released on Jan. 4.

WEDNESDAY

Indonesia's COVID vaccination drive

Indonesia plans to start its mass vaccination program on Wednesday, with President Joko Widodo first in line. The target is to vaccinate 1.3 million health workers initially, then move on to those in the working-age population. This contrasts with the approach from many other countries, which are prioritizing vaccinations for the elderly.

The plan: The government believes inoculating 181 million people out of its 270 million population is enough to reach herd immunity, but the country's sprawling archipelago makes the vaccination program a logistical nightmare.

Aeon reveals Q3 earnings

Home-bound Japanese are expected to have boosted retail group Aeon in the third quarter, thanks to the solid performance in their general merchandise stores and supermarket businesses.

EVs give boost to China's auto industry

Sales of conventional cars in China are forecast to show a decline of about 2% for 2020 when the Association of Automobile Manufacturers release data today. But the electric vehicles segment, led by Tesla, is expected to record growth, thanks to government support to reduce carbon emission.

Korea rules on "comfort women" lawsuit

Japan faces a court ruling Wednesday in a suit filed by a former "comfort woman," Lee Yong-soo, and a support group representing the women. This latest ruling will come just days after a South Korean court ordered Japan to pay compensation for another group of former comfort women. The rulings, on top of South Korean Supreme Court judgment ordering two Japanese firms to compensate some wartime forced laborers, are expected to further deteriorate the Japan-South Korea diplomatic relationship.

THURSDAY

TSMC reports Q4 results

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world's largest contract chipmaker which counts Apple, Qualcomm and Google among its clients, will report its earnings for the last quarter of 2020 and provide outlook for 2021.

Why it matters: TSMC had to suspend its business with Huawei, a major customer, due to Washington's ban on the Chinese company in 2020. But its annual revenue still reached a record and grew more than 25% on year for the full year of 2020 due to robust chip demand used in electronics that have become essential in the stay-at-home economy. The company generated record sales also in the last quarter of 2020 thanks to healthy 5G iPhone demand, as well as the recovery of the automotive market, also fueled growth of the company, which is preparing for its first U.S. plant in 20 years.

Uniqlo parent reports Q1 earnings

Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing, which had a huge hit last year with its face masks and quarantine-friendly clothes, will report first-quarter earnings on Thursday. Investors will be watching performance in key Japanese and Chinese markets, which are expected to help push earnings to a record high in the fiscal year ending August 2021. Read our interview with chairman and CEO Tadashi Yanai here.

Samsung launches new Galaxy phones

The launch of Samsung's latest Galaxy smartphone will be one of the big moments at this year's CES. Samsung leads the global smartphone market with more than 20% of the market, but Apple's first 5G iPhone has been a big seller since its launch in October.

Reporter Bao Choy appears in Hong Kong court

Hong Kong journalist Choy Yuk-ling, who was arrested in November in connection with public data she obtained for an investigative documentary, will appear in court on Thursday. The award-winning journalist is accused of making a false declaration when she obtained automobile license information from a public database, which helped show police officers' delayed response to a mob attack on pro-democracy protesters in 2019. Choy could face up to six months' imprisonment if convicted.

FRIDAY

Bank of Korea decides rates

The Bank of Korea's Monetary Policy Board will decide on its key interest rate. Economists expect the central bank to hold the rate at 0.5%, as Gov. Lee Ju-yeol recently highlighted the liquidity risks of financial institutions this year.

SATURDAY

Japan holds college entrance exams

Japan kicks off its Common Test, a new university entrance exam replacing the popular National Center Test after 31 years. The government had hoped to cut back on multiple-choice questions, but an attempt to introduce written sections and other initiatives failed due to its complexity. Supplementary exams will also be provided later for those who are sick.

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