Tensions rose at an IBM factory in Shenzhen as 19 workers were fired on Monday, ostensibly for violating company policies, according to one of the strikers.
More than 1,000 workers at IBM Systems Technology Co (ISTC), the server-making unit of IBM Corp, spontaneously walked off the job on March 3 to protest the factory's offer of severance packages ahead of a scheduled acquisition by personal computer giant Lenovo later this year.
"The factory terminated the labor contracts of 19 worker representatives. We were fired immediately and got no compensation. It's a sort of revenge," said Wen Yong, who has been working at the factory for 10 years.
The fired employees were said to have violated company policies by causing a production shutdown, Wen said.
Most strikers remained sober and non-violent as the strike entered its eighth day. But some of the workers staged sit-in protests on Monday evening.
The strike was triggered when workers at ISTC were notified on March 3 to that they had one week to decide whether to resign or stay on as Lenovo employees. The factory offered a 6,000 yuan ($980) severance payment for workers who chose to leave before March 7.
On Sunday, in an apparent sign of compromise, ISTC management said that workers who are willing to sign contracts with Lenovo before March 12 would get an extra 30,000 yuan bonus, half of which would be paid by the end of April and the rest in the first month after Lenovo takes the reins.
But workers who accept the new plan are required to resume production immediately and to ensure normal operations and good product quality.
According to Wen, about 100 of the strikers signed the contracts, but the rest continued to "protect their rights and fight for their benefits".
Apart from the dissatisfaction about the severance packages, many of the strikers expressed anger about what they said was the company's rude and abrupt decision to proceed without seeking their input, forcing them to make a life-changing choice on short notice.
"I have been working for the factory for 20 years and felt it's a part of my life. But obviously the company doesn't think the same way," said Hou Hongbo.
The district government, local human resources managers and trade unions are working hard to mediate between the IBM management and the workers, said Wen Xianqing, a press official at Futian district government.
One official, who asked not to be identified, said IBM was too rough in its handling of the workers, though its actions are legal.
"The company is backed by a powerful legal team, so its move is in line with Chinese laws, but the decision is merciless to the workers," the official said.
Lawyer Li Jianyong called the workers "unreasonably troublesome", and said they would hurt the healthy development of the companies.
"IBM is offering much more than what the law requires to the workers. They have no reason to strike and suspend production," he said.
In January, Lenovo, the world's biggest producer of personal computers, said it would buy IBM's x86 server unit for $2.3 billion. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Lenovo Chief Financial Officer Wong Wai-ming.
Chinese Internet firm Tencent plans to buy a 15 percent stake in JD.com, a major online direct sales company in China, before the latter launches its initial public offering (IPO) in the United States.
The purchase, representing 251,678,637 outstanding JD ordinary shares, will cost Tencent 214.6 million U.S. dollars and its e-commerce branches, according to Tencent's statement filed with Hong Kong exchange on Monday.
After the purchase, Tencent will continue to buy 5 percent of JD's outstanding ordinary shares on a post-IPO basis, the statement said.
In return, JD will take over Tencent's business-to-consumer (B2C) and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platforms wanggou.com and paipai.com, with all capital, assets, liabilities transferred to JD. It will also gain a minor stake in Tencent's other online shopping website yixun.com and the right to buy the site's remaining shares.
The cooperation, dubbed as the two companies' overall business collaboration in e-commerce business, aims to win a leverage in the competition with another Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba, which owns and operates the country's largest online purchase platform.
In addition, Tencent will offer JD level 1 access points at WeChat and Mobile QQ, two of the most popular communication mobile applications developed by Tencent, to boost the latter's growth in physical goods e-commerce, the statement said.
The two firms will also further ties in mobile applications and payment solutions, with JD being regarded as Tencent's preferred partner in certain business areas.
Liu Chiping, president of Tencent, will become a member of JD's board after the purchase agreement.
China is making all-out efforts to locate the missing passengers on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, almost two-thirds of them from China, as family members prepared to fly to Malaysia. [Special coverage]
Forty-seven hours after the aircraft lost contact with ground control center, relatives of the passengers on board the missing flight who are settled in Hotel of Lido in Beijing, seems calmer than earlier Sunday.
Malaysia Airlines will help relatives of passengers on board its missing flight to fly from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur, said the airline's spokesman on Sunday.
As of 10 pm, most of the relatives are applying passports and visas, however they are still overwhelmed by sadness.
An old man surnamed Li from the nearby Hebei Province, who has never been abroad, decided to go "see his kid for the last time".
However some are still hesitating about the trip. An old couple whose children were on the plane worried that the language barrier would not help them getting more useful information.
The carrier will arrange for five relatives of each passenger on the MH370 flight to go to Kuala Lumpur, its point of departure, but the first departure will carry only two relatives of each passenger, said Ignatius Ong Ming Choy, representative of Malaysia Airlines, at a press conference.
Beijing police launched an emergency mechanism to make sure the relatives of passengers can get their passports within one hour.
Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, the airline's Chief Executive Officer, said a 93-person work group has come from the company's Kuala Lumpur headquarters to take care of passengers' families and handle their passports and visas.
The Boeing 777-200 aircraft left Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 0:41 a.m. Beijing time on Saturday and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m.
Contact with the flight was lost along with its radar signal at 2:40 a.m. Beijing time on Saturday when it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control area in Vietnam.
The flight was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, including 154 Chinese.
The whole country has joined the families of passengers on board the missing plane to pray for their safety.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Chinese embassies and consulates overseas to strengthen contact with departments of relevant countries and pay close attention to the search and rescue work.
All-out efforts must be made for any emergency treatment necessary in the aftermath of the incident, Xi said in his instruction.
The CAAC demanded its air traffic management office keep in touch with its Malaysian counterpart, and ordered Beijing Capital International Airport to comfort relatives and friends of the passengers on board the missing flight.
An emergency response team assembled by the Ministry of Transport (MOT) set out early Sunday from south China's Sanya Port in Hainan Province to the sea area where it is thought the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 might have crashed.
The largest patrol vessel in South China Sea "Haixun 31" departed from Sanya on Sunday afternoon and is scheduled to arrive at the site on Tuesday afternoon, carrying 50 rescuers and facilities such as a maritime helicopter and sonar systems.
Rescue vessel "South China Sea Rescue 101" is carrying 12 divers and salvagers, and will join another rescue vessel, "South China Sea Rescue 115," at the rescue site.
The latter ship is scheduled to arrive at the site on Monday afternoon, while "South China Sea Rescue 101" will get there on Tuesday afternoon, according to the MOT.
"South China Sea Rescue 101" is 109.7 meters long, with 6,200 tonnes of full load displacement.
Meanwhile, another rescue vessel, "Tai Shun Hai" of China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company arrived at the possible site at 9 a.m. Sunday and started searching, according to the MOT.
POPPING UP MYSTERIES
Two passengers were confirmed boarded the plane operated by the Malaysian Airlines with stolen passports, according to the international police agency Interpol.
China's Ministry of Public Security has decided to send a work team to Malaysia to investigate the case after the confirmation of Interpol and was made after a consultation with the Malaysian side that called for a joint investigation into the matter, said the ministry late Sunday.
"We will join the investigation. Communication with Malaysian civil aviation authorities is underway. We'll keep updating the latest news," according to Li Jun, deputy director of CAAC.
A large oil slick stretching 100 nautical miles was found near Tok Bali, Kelantan Sunday by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, and chemical test has been done with no result has been published.
Late Sunday afternoon, Vietnam sent a boat to investigate a " strange object" spotted by a Singapore search plane near Vietnam's Tho Chu island.
The objects were suspected to come from the Boeing 777 aircraft, Vietnamese press reported earlier. But Rahman has ruled out the possibility that they were from the ill-fated jet.
Rescue work remains challenging as there is no exact location of the possible crash site.
The searching vessel has detected no clues yet after a 9-hour-search covering about 145 nautical miles, according to the MOT.
Another Chinese coast guard vessel also reported no findings of the missing plane and is expanding searching area with technical aids.
The airline has told the passengers' families to "prepare for the worst result."
But the public has continued blessing for good news.
"To all 239 lives and 154 compatriots, how are you? The rescue continues and we are still waiting, please do not give up. We know that you are delayed but we don't believe in your not coming home. MH370, China is ready for pickup, to welcome you home." a post on China's twitter-like Sina Weibo read.
Shanghai's existing housing index rose for another month in February, albeit at a slower pace.
The index, which checks price changes of pre-owned homes across the city, rose 2 points, or 0.06 percent, to 2,943 points last month, extending gains for the 21st straight month, the Shanghai Existing House Index Office said yesterday.
In January the index rose 0.26 percent, and 0.63 percent in December.
Citywide, the pre-owned home prices climbed in 49 of the 130 areas monitored by the office while 31 saw a decline. Prices were flat in the remaining 50 areas, the office said.
Nation's largest search engine ready to shift toward new platforms
Baidu Inc, China's largest online search company, is working to develop new products that can replace the search engine to become its most recognized gateway in the mobile Internet era, said Robin Li, the company's chief executive officer.
Li didn't elaborate on the new products but said that last year Baidu spent about 4 billion yuan on research and development. Most of it, he said, was used to develop products that will be as vital to the mobile era as the search engine has been in the personal computer-based one.
"If we had only wanted to maintain our leading position in search, we would have spent only about 20 percent of that amount on R&D," said the 45-old-year Li, who, with a net worth of $12.1 billion, is ranked the third-richest man on the Chinese mainland, according to the latest world's billionaires list from Forbes.
Li shared his vision about innovation and the Internet in an interview with China Central Television on the sidelines of the annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
He said his Beijing-based company's main competitor is the changing Internet landscape in China, where more than 500 million out of the roughly 600 million Internet users in the country have access to the Internet through mobile phones.
"In the PC era, the search engine was the sole gateway for people to find information on the Internet. But now the channels to gain access are diverse. People have various applications on their smartphones to meet different kinds of demands," he said.
In order to move quickly in the rapidly changing market, Baidu last August bought app store 91 Wireless for $1.9 billion and picked up 59 percent of group-buying website Nuomi the same month. The company moved to gain full control of Nuomi earlier this year.
The US-listed company saw its investment pay off, as mobile accounted for more than 20 percent of Baidu's total revenues in the fourth quarter of last year, the company said in an unaudited 2013 finance report released at the end of February. Apart from shifting to mobile, Li sees opportunities ahead because the Internet has revolutionized many traditional sectors, from retail to finance.
China's online shopping market has grown rapidly to become the world's largest. Many Internet companies, including Baidu, launched financial services last year to offer users better returns than typical bank deposits in a convenient format.
"I don't know much about finance," Li said. "What we do here is to use Internet thinking to improve the efficiency of traditional finance, to simplify purchasing procedures and give better user experience," he added.
Li said that in the future, there will be no dedicated Internet companies, "because every company will somehow embrace the Internet in some way".
Li's self-made Baidu has become involved in finance, online video, tourism and publishing. He said it will certainly expand into new sectors.
"With Internet thinking, there is a lot of room in terms of efficiency improvement in healthcare and education," he said.
With more than 277 million users worldwide, LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD ) is not only the largest professional social network, it is also one of the best-monetized websites ever created. Unlike Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) or Google, which mainly rely on advertisements to generate revenue, LinkedIn obtains revenue from its users through advertising, premium memberships, and human resources solutions.
However, despite being one of the best-monetized websites, it is becoming increasingly difficult for LinkedIn to continue growing. In the fourth quarter of 2013, revenue came in at $447 million, up 47%. That being said, management predicted revenue of $455 million-$460 million for this quarter, well below the Street consensus. The company's projections raised worries that it may be starting to have trouble mining its audience for more revenue. At the same time, the company added only 18 million accounts in the fourth quarter, which barely matched the average of additional accounts that LinkedIn has gained in the previous quarters. To improve revenue and user metrics, the company recently announced the introduction of a Chinese-language website. Can LinkedIn succeed in China?
A great opportunity
LinkedIn will be offering a localized version of its website, after more than a decade of having an English-language site there. The company will also be establishing a joint venture with top private equity firms China Broadband Capital and Sequoia China, to attempt to connect more than 140 million Chinese professionals.
Without any doubt, China represents a huge business opportunity for LinkedIn, which already has more than 4 million members in the world's second-largest economy. With a labor force of more than 800 million people, China also has a huge population of active Internet users. Most companies in China still do not use LinkedIn or similar alternatives as recruiting tools, but this could change if LinkedIn succeeds in registering enough users.
Note that LinkedIn will become one of the few U.S. social networks with direct exposure to China. Facebook, the largest social network, recently reported revenue of $2.59 billion for the fourth quarter of 2013, an increase of 55%, year over year. However, it has no official presence in China. Eventually, this will become a big problem for the company, which already has more than 1 billion registered users.
Several challenges ahead
LinkedIn will have to compete against several social networks that are already present in the Chinese market. Tianji, a networking site owned by Viadeo, has more than 15 million users in China, where it has been in the market since 2005. Tianji is popular due to some highly social features, like the ability to invite friends and colleagues to evaluate themselves using a Myers-Briggs-type online personality test.
Ushi is an important competitor that released an invitation-only platform in 2010. The company raised $1.5 million in a first round of funding, and has several chief executives registered in its user base. Ushi, which monetizes its site by charging for some premium features, has a deep understanding of Chinese business customs. Before the release, the team spent months in face-to-face meetings with several top executives and business leaders in order to convince them to become early members. This allowed Ushi to become an exclusive hub for elite professionals at an early stage.
On top of competition, LinkedIn will have to comply with several local rules in order to remain online. Complex regulations in China are a reason for the absence of U.S. social media companies in the world's second-largest economy. Facebook has been blocked by firewalls since mid-2009.
Final Foolish takeaway
LinkedIn, the largest social network oriented to professionals, will release a localized version of its website for the Chinese market. This is a privilege, and LinkedIn will become one of the few U.S. social media companies with direct exposure to China. However, there are several challenges ahead, including fierce competition from local competitors like Tianji and Ushi. To succeed in this market, LinkedIn will need to adopt a growth strategy based on a deep understanding of Chinese business customs.
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