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The Singapore government handed startups a mixed hong bao at this week’s national budget / Photo credit: Nestor Lacle / flickr

Here are the top tech stories from the long Lunar New Year weekend, including new measures affecting startups from the Singapore government’s latest budget and plenty more news from the region’s ride-hailing sector.

Startup ecosystem

National budget heralds less generous tax breaks for startups (Singapore). The Singaporean government’s 2018 budget will cut corporation tax exemptions for startups from 100 percent of their first S$100,000 (US$75,915) of chargeable income to 75 percent. Finance minister Heng Swee Keat said that startups would still enjoy a favorable effective tax rate of 4.8 percent in spite of the revision, and encouraged entrepreneurs to make the most of various startup support initiatives offered by the city-state. (Tech in Asia)

However, the government did not expand goods and services tax (GST) to lower value ecommerce transactions as anticipated. Heng indicated that GST on such imported goods is on the way, but the government will review international discussions over the issue before deciding on specific measures to take. However, from January 2020, Singapore will charge GST on imported services purchased online – potentially including some apps and content streaming platforms – and some businesses in these areas may need to obtain GST registration in Singapore if they have not already done so. The overall GST rate will be raised gradually from 7 percent to 9 percent between 2021 and 2025. (Tech in Asia)


Zoomcar nets US$40 million in series C fundraise (India). The on-demand car rental platform raised the money in a round led by conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra, with previous backers including Ford joining in. Fundersclub, Nokia, and Sequoia Capital are among the startup’s earlier investors. (TechCrunch)

Sony joins the ride-hailing race (Japan). The tech giant is joining forces with taxi firms including Daiwa to develop an artificial intelligence-driven ride-hailing platform. SoftBank recently announced a similar partnership with Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing, while automaker Toyota has invested in taxi operator Nihon Kotsu’s hailing app JapanTaxi. (Reuters)

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_dacosta'>dacosta / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

An Uber-branded taxi in Moscow, Russia / Photo credit: dacosta / 123RF

Uber is also counting on partnerships with taxi companies to revive its fortunes in Japan. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi suggested that the US firm’s “go-it-alone” approach to the country hasn’t worked. “It’s clear to me that we need to come in with partnership in mind, and in particular a partnership with the taxi industry here,” he said while on a visit to Tokyo. “When I asked the team why wasn’t our Japan business larger, I started learning the history of our approach to Japan, and it was an approach that frankly didn’t work.” (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile, Uber’s proposed hook-up with another taxi firm is still under the regulatory microscope (Singapore). The Competition Commission of Singapore said it will carry out further in-depth assessment of Uber and ComfortDelGro’s US$474 million joint venture deal, which the two companies announced in December, following the completion of its initial review. The agency said it has asked both parties to submit further information by March 5, after which it will assess whether the deal infringes Singaporean competition law. (Reuters)

Travel and hospitality

Oyo Rooms-Zo Rooms rumored merger descends into legal fisticuffs (India). Hotel room aggregator Oyo Rooms has filed a criminal complaint against competitor Zo Rooms, accusing its founders of breach of trust and misrepresentation. The complaint apparently came in response to a request for arbitration filed a few days earlier by Zo Rooms, which Oyo claims made false allegations. Oyo had reportedly been in talks to acquire Zo Rooms back in 2015, but revealed last November that any potential deal had been called off. (Inc42)

Media and entertainment

Toutiao headquarters in Beijing / Photo credit: Tech in Asia

Toutiao reportedly acquires Faceu (China). Personalized news portal Toutiao is reportedly paying US$300 million for Faceu, an augmented reality-based selfie app. Toutiao acquired Chinese video lip-syncing app Musical.ly last November in a deal rumored to be worth US$1 billion. (China Money Network)


Google’s Tez now handles bill payments (India). Tez, the digital payments app launched by Google in India last September, has received a major update allowing users to pay their bills to over 80 utilities, telecom, and other service providers. (TechCrunch)

Property and real estate

Online real estate portal ShweProperty lands seven-digit US dollar funding (Myanmar). A London-based emerging markets fund led the round, with Sweden’s Vostok New Ventures among other investors to participate. (ShweProperty)

See: Previous Asia news roundups

This post Asia news roundup: Uber seeks taxi tie-ups in Japan, while Singapore deal faces scrutiny appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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