Sprint Buys PCS Spectrum, Groupon Falls Flat in Third Quarter: Weekly Tech Business Recap

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to the top tech business stories of the week:

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LDK Solar Co. (NYSE:LDK) reports that it will receive $33.4 million to terminate a solar wafer supply arrangement with Japan’s Sumitomo. Much like the terminations of its competitor, MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR), LDK’s agreement with Sumitomo unraveled due to large price declines seen for solar wafers, which rendered the terms of the initial deal uneconomical.

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The European Commission will accept an e-book settlement bid from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and four book publishers, according to Reuters. Similar to a resolution in the United States that was recently approved, the new agreement will permit Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and other e-book sellers to set their own prices, which in Amazon’s case, typically translates to selling e-books at a loss. Apple is still disputing with the Justice Department, but Pearson (NYSE:PSO), which was also a part of the EU’s investigation, isn’t part of the present settlement accommodation.

Stocks of domestic cell tower owners SBA Communications Corporation (NASDAQ:SBAC), American Tower Corporation (NYSE:AMT), and Crown Castle International Corp. (NYSE:CCI) are moving up Wednesday from AT&T’s capital expenditure plans to step up the offer of 4-gigabyte LTE services as a broadband choice for rural areas. Wells Fargo believes that American Tower should benefit from AT&T’s plan to add 10,000 new cell sites and 40,000 small cells. Citigroup says that Ciena Corporation (NASDAQ:CIEN) and Adtran (NASDAQ:ADTN), among others, should appreciate AT&T’s wireline investments.

AT&T (NYSE:T) is selling Nokia Corporation’s (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 920 for $450 without a contract, which implies that the latter’s unsubsidized pricing for the product is a bit assertive. In comparison, the 16-gigabyte iPhone 5 is priced at $649 also without contract, and Samsung’s Galaxy S III goes for $549. Those figures are a likely reason why AT&T is okay with offering the 920 for $100 with a 2-year contract.

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Sprint Nextel Corporation (NYSE:S) will buy PCS spectrum and 585,000 subscribers in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio for $480 million from the United States Cellular Corporation (NYSE:USM). The acquisition includes the assumption of liabilities and should “significantly increase Sprint’s network capacity and improve the customer experience.”

Microsoft Office (NASDAQ:MSFT) should debut on iOS and Android early next year, say sources to The Verge, but the details given are unlikely to please very many. Free versions of the productivity suite, named Office Mobile, will permit its users to view Office documents, but only those who buy an Office 365 subscription will be allowed to edit them.

Don’t Miss: Microsoft: Here’s the Future of Gaming Hardware. Panasonic Corporation (NYSE:PC), LG Electronics (LGEAF.PK), and Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE:PHG) are all exposed to potential fines on the Continent for allegedly fixing the prices of cathode-ray tubes. Other makers including Toshiba have been requested to meet with the European Commission prior to a preliminary decision and might also be liable for penalties of as much as 10 percent of their annual sales.

Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo of Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ)(NASDAQ:VOD) anticipates the completion his firm’s 4-gigabyte LTE launch by the middle of next year, which would be 6 months ahead of its original plan, and 18 months prior to that of AT&T, which wants to offer LTE to 300 million Americans by the end of 2014. For its part, Verizon intends to cover 260 million people by the end of 2012, well ahead of AT&T’s 150 million.

On Wednesday, Fox (NASDAQ:NWS) saw its request for a preliminary injunction against Dish Network Corporation’s (NASDAQ:DISH) ad-skipping AutoHop features on its Hopper DVRs rejected by Judge Dolly Gee in California. Fox, Comcast Corporation’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC Universal, and CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS) are all suing Dish over the tech, which they contend breaches copyright.

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) wins one as its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 device and new enterprise management platform are awarded United States FIPS 140-2 security clearance, which marks the first time that BlackBerry products have been FIPS certified prior to introduction. The company has more than 1 million government customers in North America and it will now allow government agencies to use the products.

It is estimated by Forrester that domestic e-commerce sales will rise by 15 percent year-over-year in this shopping season. Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) saw its North American sales jump by 33 percent year-over-year from 2011 in the third quarter, and should again be a share-gainer, as could be eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), whose domestic merchandise volume growth, excluding vehicles, increased to 16 percent for the same period in the third quarter because of strong mobile growth. Taken together, the number of shippers is only expected to increase by 3 percent, but it is forecast that the average shopper will spend 12 percent more online.

Shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are off Wednesday, perhaps due to worries about hardware sales, and Cirrus Logic (NASDAQ:CRUS) is following the former as well in the face of its mobile chip peer Qualcomm’s (NASDAQ:QCOM) well-appreciated results and guidance.

Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation 3 has won a certification of quality from a safety standards regulator in China, which is leading to speculation that the country might reverse its current ban on gaming consoles. Consultant Lisa Hanson notes that any such change is the prerogative of the Ministry of Culture and if the ban ends, Sony and Nintendo (NTDOF.PK) would then face a lot of rivalry from online and mobile games.

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) lost in court Tuesday as a Texas federal jury ordered it to pay VirnetX Holding Corporation (AMEX:VHC) $368.2 million for infringing patents for virtual-private-network tech, used in Apple’s FaceTime function, which permits users to make video calls. Although VirnetX has hoped for more than $708 million, it will now seek an order through which to block the further use of its inventions.

LM Ericsson Telephone Company (NASDAQ:ERIC) intends to slash 1,550 of its staff in Sweden while it endeavors to reduce costs in an environment of slumping orders and a rise in less profitable contracts. The job cuts come after Ericsson’s core profit slid by 42 percent in the third quarter and after it forecast annual growth of between 3 and 5 percent in the telecom-equipment market for 2012 to 2015.

Shares of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) are down following Groupon’s (NASDAQ:GRPN) third quarter bust. Not helping one iota is a Nielsen report which calculated that the average time per month spent on Facebook’s PC site by domestic users dropped by 29 minutes from March to September, down to 6:40:32, while mobile usage increases. The report supports the numbers reported by comScore as well. Facebook shares are down 9 percent since a lockup expired on October 29th, and a much larger lockup expiration comes on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Groupon has lost just under 30 percent by late afternoon.

The Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) reduces its interest in Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY.PK) by about a third to 2.93 percent. The former netted approximately $713 million on the divestiture, compared to the $1.12 billion the shares were worth when they were acquired back in 2006. The government of Germany is still Deutsche’s biggest shareholder with direct and indirect holdings amounting to a 32 percent interest.

VirnetX Holding Corporation (AMEX:VHC) is bringing lawsuit against Apple, as it alleges that Apple’s latest iOS and Mac hardware infringes four VirnetX patents which were asserted in the Texas suit that delivered a favorable verdict earlier in the week. This time, Apple does not seem intent upon resolving this new battle in rapid order.

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China Telecom Corporation (NYSE:CHA) intends to sell the iPhone 5 in late November or early December, which is a bit earlier than was anticipated. During Apple’s fiscal fourth quarter call, Tim Cook said only that his company expects the Chinese launch in December. Meanwhile, China Unicom’s (NYSE:CHU) chairman remains more cautious setting a schedule, and RBC projects that Apple will reach an arrangement with China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) next year, although the iPhone 5 does not support that firm’s TD-SCDMA 3-gigabyte network.

Yahoo’s (NASDAQ:YHOO) most recent home page refresh has mobile in mind. A set of photo tiles similar to Windows 8 occupy much of the screen, but the designer compensated by reducing space for icons, text links, and display ad modules.

Don’t Miss: Will Apple Get Slammed By VirnetX Again? Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares partially reverse Thursday’s losses as Gene Munster reports that his team’s checks indicate that iPhone 5 supplies are increasing, and it might now be only 2 to 3 weeks before the device is “consistently available to consumers.” Somewhat separately, AT&T (NYSE:T) says that its iPhone 5 supply situation is improving prior to the big shopping season. However, the online Apple Store continues to set shipping times for all models at 3 to 4 weeks.

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Since Oracle Corporation (NASDAQ:ORCL) is now legally mandated to support it, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) reports a refresh for its Itanium high-end server CPU line, whose market share represents a small part of the Xeon line. The Itanium 9500 promises more than twice the performance of its predecessor and boasts new features which are meant to enhance reliability.

Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) suffers a debt rating downgrade at Moody’s from Baa2 to Baa3, a move which now has it just one gradation above junk. The ratings agency is said to be concerned about soft demand for consumer electronics and cautions that Sony’s non-financial services could remain unprofitable in the absence of a major restructuring.