Friday, December 19, 2008

500 days to Shanghai World EXPO

More on the Shanghai World Expo in this piece from CCTV via YouTube. Following our piece on the missing US presence, you can get a sense of the scale of what the Chinese are building in Shanghai.

Friday, December 12, 2008

No show US in Shanghai?

The Shanghaiist blog is a good place to keep up-to-date with what's happening up there on the east China coast. There's not usually too much, though, directly related to our business interests. Today, however, there's a very interesting post about the likely absence of the United States from the 2010 World Expo.

It links to a site dedicated to launching a US pavilion. The basic line is:

Beginning on May 1, 2010, and continuing for six months, the nations of the world will gather in Shanghai to participate in what is forecast to be the largest, most heavily attended Worlds Fair in history. Incredibly, without immediate and decisive action on the part of America’s leaders in commerce and in government, the United States of America will be glaringly absent from this global celebration.

The result would be an insult to the Chinese government, global humiliation for the American people, and a serious blow to U.S. commercial prospects in the vast Chinese and other regional markets. The repercussions could reverberate for decades. We don’t want this to happen!

According to the Shanghaiist, this is due a diplomatic snit in the early 1990s when Congress passed legislation forbidding government funding of world fair pavilions. It says the US subsequently withdrew from the Bureau Internationale d'Expositions. Who knew?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I hope it sounds better in Chinese...

"King of trade" or something like that....but I do have to say, Ali Wang Wang, the IM tool from Alibaba's subsidiary Alisoft sounds awfully silly in English.

It definitely trumps Alimama which was hogging the limelight at the top of the Ali-silly name league table until I came across this one.

Continental to fly on pond scum

This isn't too much to do with business media other than the fact that everybody I know in the industry in Asia travels like demons and we all have carbon footprints that would make a yeti look dainty. There is increasing discussion, particularly within the events industry, about how we can address the challenges to business travel posed by the twin threats of economic downturn and increased environmental concerns.

So, I was intrigued by this piece on the Economist's Gulliver blog about alternative fuels. After Richard Branson's efforts to fly a 747 on old chip fat (actually, a blend of coconut and babassu oil and jet fuel), Air New Zealand is next into the fray with a plane using some jatropha oil for one of its three engines. But, what really caught my eye was the news of Continental's plans to fly a 737 on fuel derived from pond scum (plus jatropha oil and jet fuel).

I trust that the marketers and scientists will come up with grander and more palatable names for it, but I think that Pond Scum Air could have a future as Greenpeace's airline of choice. How about it as offficial airline for your next event?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A wondeful time for start-ups

"What's he smoking?", you may ask, but the suggestion isn't as mad as it may sound. Yes, markets are down and yes people are nervous. But, large companies are pulling back behind the pallisades and there are some benefits to getting new businesses into the market today.

I was talking about this with a former colleague over lunch today. She is upbeat. And, when I came back to the office, I saw this interesting post at TechNation Australia. Blogger Mike Watkins highlights five reasons that this is a good time for start-ups:

  1. The talent pool is suddenly offering up a whole lot more choice to new businesses at much lower costs.
  2. There's less competition.
  3. Recession is the "fit farm" for new businesses - if you come out of the back end of this intact, you'll be in fighting form to benefit from the upturn which, as spring follows winter, will indeed come in due course, prophets of doom notwithstanding.
  4. What Watkins calls "real VCs": if somebody puts money into your business today, (a) you're damned lucky and (b) you know that they have to be really serious. The days of the 22 year old MBA deal flippers are over. Thank goodness.
  5. History - some of the world's great companies got their start in tough times. He cites Apple and Microsoft. A review of a book I was just looking at pointed out that Warren Buffet's father founded a brokerage in 1931.
So, there you have it: if you have ***** of steel, this may be the time to get your new business going. And you may be in luck. Your current employer may be getting ready to make this possible with a pink slip for Christmas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

How much longer for CMP Asia?

Like every business media company, they have their hands full right now with slowing markets, Indian terrorism, Thai politics, etc. etc. and it's hard to imagine the team at CMP Asia are too focused on corporate branding. However, as we did back in July, we do wonder how much longer parent company United Business Media will hang on to the CMP Asia identity.

At the FIPP/ABM B2B conference in New York in September, CEO David Levin told me that he didn't anticipate any immediate need for the Asian business to follow its US and European counterparts which had been restructured into what he described as "tiger" and "lion" businesses, the optimum size for each of which was, he said, $70 - 100m, about half the size of CMP Asia. Surely, an Asian dragon structure is the logical conclusion of all this.

I remain unconvinced by denials that this is being considered, particularly in light of today's news that the Commonwealth Business Media brand is also to fade into a UBM corporate identity. It'll be a bit harder to come up with a small number of logical market groups for Asia: jewellery and the rest? China and the rest? Jewellery, furniture, and the rest, etc. etc. But I'd be willing to bet a modest bet (take me on for a Blackberry Bold anybody?) that there will have been news on this before the middle of '09.

P.S. CMP Asia senior management are excluded from taking me up on my bet because i) you already have Blackberry Bolds and ii) you have an unfair advantage over me in having an inside track on this information!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Guaranteed success

You have to admire the savvy of those corporate types in these tough times. One sure way to guarantee success is to set yourself a target that has already been achieved.

So, when Google starts waffling about its ambitions for Hong Kong and says it "is committed to become a local product to turn Hong Kong into a large export-oriented platform for online marketers". Hmmm. I guess Global Sources,, HKTDC and Tradeeasy have all been asleep at the wheel over the past decade then. Thank goodness for the cavalry in their nice, colourful Google hats coming to save us all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Currency chaos

The Economist today suggests that "Trade slows and gloom mounts. But Asia’s economic downturn will be milder than the one it endured a decade ago". Phew! Read it all. As usual, the good people of The Economist are more level-headed than most.

However, what's on my mind is currencies. The most under-reported feature of the current as far as I can see is the extraordinary revaluation of world currencies. The view that the US' time in the sun has come to an end is clearly not supported by currency traders who have piled into the greenback. I run a multi-currency business and track various currencies over a 5 year period to make sure I know what side of the roller-coaster I'm on. Look at this chart which shows the Aussie dollar, pound and euro against the US$. Who can manage through a swing like that? What does it mean for trade and for our media businesses, particularly in Hong Kong and China where we remain broadly (or very specifically in HK's case) linked to the US dollar?

Click on the chart to see it bigger in all its ugly glory!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Circle the wagons

Times are tough and companies are protecting what they've got. UBM's David Levin puts it altogether more smoothly in the Interim Update just released when he says, "We have anticipated challenging economic times and are actively managing our operational costs but we remain on the lookout for opportunities to continue the development of our business. Costs are under continual review and the focus for 2009 is operational excellence."

CMP Asia, the review says, has generated profits "ahead of 2007". It goes on to note that "Whilst the business has performed ahead of plan in China, its performance in Japan was disappointing in 2008; this is an area of continuing management focus". This coincides with the BBC telling us that Japan is now officially back in recession for the first time since 2001.

Meanwhile, the company also tells us that it has bought out Xinhua Finance's share of its Xinhua PR Newswire JV. The $6mn deal includes about 50 people and $4mn in revenues.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's all work together

My colleague Mark Cochrane is in Tokyo while I am in Istanbul and has filed this guest posting for the blog:

BSG is at FIPP's inaugural Asia-Pacific Digital Media Conference in Tokyo this week. There is a strong turnout (500+ delegates) and lively discussions as you would expect. Marcel Fenez, the Global Managing Partner of PwC's Entertainment and Media Practice sees the end of the global M&A frenzy in the media sector. PwC recently surveyed 11,000 CEOs. The key take away: "collaboration, not competition."
Why is M&A out? Firstly, there is no debt to be had. Secondly, messy integration efforts are a distraction which cause management to lose sight of the strategic goals that brought about the deal in the first place. Media CEOs are touting collaboration with competitors and calling it "teaming."
Let's see how that works in Asia's B2B media world. Global Sources and Alibaba, over to you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Crisis, what crisis?

I'm sitting in Bangkok airport en route to the UFI Congress in Istanbul and this post from Fons Tuinstra really caught my eye. He's quoting from a Bloomberg piece which says that October exports from China were up 19.2% in October on 2007, just slightly down from September's rise of 21.5%.

The Bloomberg piece quotes Wang Qian, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong saying "Demand from Europe and the U.S. will inevitably shrink further, damping China's exports and thus domestic investment''. Fair enough. It would be a miracle if it didn't. But export growth of almost 20%? This doesn't sit comfortable with claims of pending disaster, factory closures and mass unemployment.

As Fons says, with commendable understatement, "it is not yet enough to make me panic". Either things aren't so bad or somebody's taken the optimistic abacus down from the top shelf for adding up the numbers.

So, who's going to pay for Phase III?

Several reports in local papers today (including this one in the Standard) about the HKTDC's initiative to support Hong Kong exporters with a HK$120 million package linked to its exhibitions. $80 million of this will be used to fund over-seas buyers with the remainder going in cash subsidies to exhibitors, according to the Standard.

The report says that the HKTDC will target buyers from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and mainland China as traditional sources of business in N. America and western Europe slow down. All very reasonable.

It notes, however, that the Council's capacity to offer more support is constrained by the fact that a sizeable chunk of its HK$860 million in reserves is needed to pay for the Phase 2.5 extension of its Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre now under way. The South China Morning Post (behind subscriber wall, sorry) puts that repayment at $720 million.

That leaves me wondering who is going to pay for the Phase III extension of HKCEC which TDC has been lobbying hard for and which the HK government now appears to be considering seriously (see Let them eat concrete). It's hard to imagine any banks being enthusiastic. So, the Hong Kong taxpayer looks like the likely candidate here doesn't it....

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Events and technology

My friend Joanne Kelleway has recently started a new blog which focuses on her main area of interest and expertise; events and technology. For those of you who don't know Joanne (shame on you; what remote hole do you live in?), she runs from Australia the Info Salons registration business whose reach now extends to China, Dubai and soon, we're all sure, the rest of the world.

She's already written about one of my pet topics; mobile technology and our business. Today she links to an interesting video interview with technology futurist Mark Pesce. Add Joanne's blog to your blog reader. It will make you a better person...

...that will be one Turkish coffee in Istanbul next week, please Joanne.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama B2B Asia media link

OK, well this just goes to prove that Tom Crampton is cleverer than me and you all knew that already didn't you. I said yesterday, "Try as I might, I can't really think of an Asian B2B media link for the Obama victory".

Well old clever clogs Crampton has found out that Obama has a half brother in Shenzhen who "runs an Internet company that helps Chinese companies export to the US". More details in his full blog post here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Chinese buyer will do it for Alibaba

Try as I might, I can't really think of an Asian B2B media link for the Obama victory. Remembering the scary 1992 pre-election rhetoric of W.J. Clinton, Esq. and what happened after that, I don't think an Obama administration is really going to become a Smoot-Hawley-ite protectionist mob. Having the benefit over his predecessor of intelligence and an apparent willingness to listen, I also don't believe he's going to pursue the manipulation of the renminbi nonsense any further than he already had to in order to guarantee those union cheques kept flowing in.

So, we'll assume business as usual. Which leaves us with international buyers drying up, PRD factories closing down and generally ugly conditions ahead for the exporters of consumer merchandise in China (aka 'cheap tat').

Interesting to see Joe Tsai of Alibaba then predicting to Reuters that he expects 50% of their B2B revenues to be coming from within China in the future. That would be up from 36% today. At the same time, the article reports that Alibaba is cutting prices for many of its manufacturing customers whose businesses are really hurting right now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

All change at Reed

We can assume that the insiders are polishing their resumés at Reed Elsevier with the announcement that 'Mr. Generalist' Ian Smith is to succeed Crispin Davies as CEO on 1st January. According to the Grauniad Smith "was most recently the chief executive of British housebuilder Taylor Woodrow Plc. He was before that chief executive of General Healthcare Group and previously held senior positions at management consulting firm Monitor, Royal Dutch Shell and Exel Group". What next? NASA?

Meanwhile, in an altogether more predictable promotion, the diminutive powerhouse Josephine Lee has become General Manager of Reed Huayin, the Shanghai-based joint venture exhibitions business "business in the Corrugated/Converting; Manufacturing/Machinery and Print/ Packaging sectors". Founder Robby He Wenxiong has left the company to "pursue other business interests". I imagine there will be a few of those in London too.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Chris "Long Tail" Anderson has been pushing the focus on "free" in his blog and his upcoming book. It is not, however, a word closely associated with our friends at Global Sources. In fact, if memory serves me well, a good deal of their early criticism of the business model was that "free is not a business model".

Interesting to see then, that they are embracing the world of "free" in response to the global economic crisis. A press release dated 31st October is headed "To speed world economic recovery, Global Sources offers free website to exporters in search of quality international buyers". The emphasis is ours but it reflects the degree to which the word caught our attention. Nil desperandum, though, the press release's 2nd paragraph focuses onto the good old paying buyers: "Moreover, on behalf of paid clients, Global Sources plans to assist with applications for export development grants from local governments in China, including Hong Kong, thus significantly reducing the overall cost of advertising services".

It quotes Global Sources' Chairman and CEO, Merle Hinrichs saying: "This is a very tough time for buyers and suppliers. Because of the current economic downturn, consumer purchasing behavior is changing rapidly. But over the past 40 years, Global Sources has seen this type of situation before, and we know it represents an opportunity for those suppliers who know how to find the right quality of buyer to do business with. And today, our buyers are more active than ever before, because they must quickly replace canceled orders with products that fit new consumer spending patterns."

Over to you Alibaba. The ball's in your court. Will this be an arm's race towards the free-est of the free?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Interpreting the data

We said earlier in the week "watch this space" for updates on the barometer of economic activity which is the Canton Fair and its Hong Kong counterparts. The organisers are understandably being a bit coy about early releases of visitor figures. The South China Morning Post (still behind it's firewall, sorry) this morning quotes one exhibitor in Guangzhou suggesting that "the organisers lost 70 per cent of the usual attendees".

I doubt that's true, but read with more interest the accompanying story where interpreters lined up outside the hall, offering their services to visitors were interviewed. Spanish interpreters, it seems are still in demand although their rates have dropped from Rmb700 a day for the Spring Fair in April to Rmb500. English interpreters, obviously more plentiful, are struggling to find takers at Rmb200 - 300 a day while one girl was (unsuccessfully) offering Rmb150 (around US$20).

But, even with cut rates, there weren't enough buyers to go around and the reporter describes large groups of interpreters waiting all day outside the Pazhou exhibition complex. There you have it folks: the sharp end of the global economic crisis.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Let them eat concrete...

Hong Kong has a long tradition of turning to major infrastructure projects when the people are feeling gloomy. In the aftermath of Tiananmen Square in 1989, then Governor Sir David Wilson announced the construction of a huge new airport at Chep Lap Kok.

Today it was Sir Donald "bow tie" Tsang's turn. In the face of ugly markets, a particularly embarrassing local twist to Lehman's demise and general public grumpiness, he appears to have let the Hong Kong Trade Development Council have their way with a probable Phase III development of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. In his policy address today, he said:

To maintain our position as a convention and exhibition capital, we need to increase the exhibition area of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). The atrium link expansion of the HKCEC will be completed next year. The Government and the TDC are examining the feasibility of a Phase 3 expansion of the HKCEC at a nearby site. We will embark on detailed studies and public consultation as soon as possible.

That is very project-specific and appears to push back indefinitely plans for a Phase II at the AsiaWorld-Expo venue located out at the previous feel-good infrastructure project, the Hong Kong International Airport. That site is majority owned by the HK government but with minority ownership from French-owned Dragages Hong Kong and others. It's biggests users are Global Sources, founded and controlled by an American and the HKTDC's biggest rival for over 30 years.

The HKTDC was unable to contain its pleasure over the government's decision with an immediate press release saying that "The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) warmly welcomes the Government's decision as communicated in the 15 October 2008 Policy Address to examine the feasibility of a Phase III expansion of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) at a nearby site".

Monday, October 13, 2008

The world will be watching

No, not the European finance ministers, not Hank Paulson's latest briefing. I'm talking about the Canton Fair and the big Hong Kong sourcing exhibitions (links later). This will be a good test of how the financial storm might affect 'real' business.

Today's South China Morning Post is gloomy. Airlines are reporting a 15% drop in bookings and hotels are said to be 'half full' (although I don't really believe that). The clincher, though, is that the price of black market stands at the fair (don't ask!) is down to 3x list price from 10x.

Hong Kong TV news was also reporting last night that Electronics Fair exhibitors were refocussing their targets on developing Asia (especially India and China) as well as southern Europe and the Middle East. Watch this space!

Sent via BlackBerry.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Competing for better web metrics

We have posted before (the last time just over a year ago) on the inadequacies of available web metrics for B2B sites. We publish a regular report as part of the BSG Asia Business Media Tracker subscription service which is based mainly on Alexa data. Some of readers and clients don't tire from pointing out to us the inadequacies of that.

So, I was interested this morning to come across a piece on Australia's TechNation site which gives traffic numbers for Aussie start-up sites. That's interesting in itself, but what caught my eye was that are using both Alexa numbers and those from Call me ignorant if you will, but I wasn't aware of this one. I ran a test on numbers for, Global Sources and I've always been a bit suspicious of the Alexa numbers for the latter. See what you make of the result:

I haven't looked into this seriously yet to work out where they get their numbers from. Have any of you? What comments to you have on Compete?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Statement from TCEB on stituation in Thailand

These are confusing times for those of us focusing on Thailand. The world's media are obviously making the most of the dramatic goings-on in the streets of Bangkok.

The Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau, an important BSG client, has issued the following statement today:

8 October 2008: Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau wishes to inform organizers, business traveler s, and trade visitors who are planning or attending business events in Thailand as follows:

  • The current protests are limited to the area around the Government House, Parliament and Rajdamnoen Road area. These areas are located closely together in one specific district in Bangkok, and far from all major MICE related venues, and hotels. Delegates are therefore advised to be prudent and avoid these specific areas.
  • All convention and exhibition venues in Thailand are unaffected. All major MICE venues are operating normally.
  • Normal businesses continue to be unaffected. The gatherings for corporate meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions can be conducted as usual.
  • All international and domestic airports in Thailand, and mass transportation such as the BTS skytrain, MRT subway, and bus services are in normal operation. Public and private organizations, shopping centres and restaurants are open as usual.

We will keep you updated with the situation. Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to call TCEB office: +(66) 2694 6000 , visit or contact TCEB office is located at Siam Tower 26 Floor, 989 Rama I Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Eddie in action

It's good to see my friend Eddie Choi back at his blogging desk. Like me, he has been blogging 'lightly' for a couple of months but his Marketing, Technology, and Entrepreneurial Experience - Blog by Tradedot blog is now back in action. There have already been a couple of very interesting posts: "Bring Sexy Back to B2B" is an interesting piece on how several leading trade fair companies are beginning to look more innovatively at their e-marketing with the help of Eddie's company, Frontiers Digital.

Now, today, he has posted on Global Sources' 'cyber-squatting' on the domain name...and running a site on it. All's fair in love and war and, as Eddie points out, "Domain name is like real estate. If you own it, you own it". And, nobody ever accused Global Sources of not fighting for its corner very keenly!

Monday, September 15, 2008

I sold my old gold commode

I was going to restrict myself to one post a day (I know - it's been more like one a month the last few weeks), but couldn't resist this one. The heading comes from one of the comments to a Wall Street Journal blog piece on the name change at my friend David Zhong's Millionaire Fair in Shanghai. That event, franchised from its Dutch founders, is now to be known as "The Fair".

I think that's quite cool. According to the China Journal "its focus will shift from the extravagant luxury goods and lavish parties of yore to a more modest sounding “roundtable on China’s well-being and charity.”

Visa restrictions coming to an end?

One of the more unfortunate side-effects of China's desire to pull off a 'perfect' Olympic games was the clamp down on issuing visas to foreigners. It is not untypical of Chinese bureaucrats to take sledge hammer sized solutions to walnut sized problems and this is a case in point with all regular travel to the country having been seriously disrupted for several months. This has caused a slow down in a lot of regular business activity and has impacted foreign visitor attendance at those events outside Beijing which were allowed to continue.

Now, I see from Fons Tuinstra's blog, that word is that this will all be rolled back once the current Paralympics are finished and after the 1st October National Day holidays. He is quoting from Dezan Shira's China Briefing which says the Public Security Bureau has indicated that:

Beginning in the second week of October, China will start issuing one year multi-entry F visas, making it far more convenient for those traveling to China on business to enter the country. The new measures will assist with the various trade shows, such as the Canton Trade Fair, that China traditionally holds during the Autumn.

Interesting that the change of tune should be linked to exhibitions. It suggests that those in power are, contrary to popular opinion, aware of the very negative impact that the visa policy has had on business.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Watch out JCK

UBM's David Levin kicked off day 2 of the FIPP/ABM conference in New York with a compelling presentation of the company's strategy and performance. Challenged to explain "what happened to CMP", he had a few of the big media brand bosses squirming when he argued that small is beautiful and that the media brands themselves are not really relevant to the customers.

He told the 290 delegates that he was on his way to Asia for the Shanghai Furniture Fair and for CMP Asia's September Jewellery Fair in Hong Kong. Despite the revolting jewellery associations, he says that the CMP team has "JCK in it's sights" and plans to become the world's largest within a year or so.

I asked him if he was planning to follow the lead he has set in the US and Europe, breaking up CMP into what he calls "Tiger" and "Lion" companies. No Dragons in Asia yet it seems. As the Asian business has always been mainly an events one, he said it was different and doesn't need to be broken up....
Sent via BlackBerry.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Avoiding PIGS

I'm now in New York where I shall be attending next week's FIPP/ABM B2B industry meeting which is usually very worthwhile.

A couple of things catching my eye here: firstly, the news that Alibaba Group is merging it's online advertising business Alimama with its eBay killing auction site Taobao is intriguing. On the surface, there's not much to link those two other than the fact that they both fall outside the listed B2B business. Is another IPO in the making? That would be one explanation.

Then, I noticed an interesting piece on ExpoWeb about a new research study undertaken by my old friend Denzil Rankine of AMR for the boutique investment bank DeSilve + Philips. The piece reports on a panel which discussed AMR's research at the bank's recent conference in New York. The research proposes (and I agree) that events are likely to be much more resilient in these currently-straitened economic times than other forms of media. They also predict that M&A will hold up in this sector which must be a great relief to them all.

What really caught my eye, though, was a remark attributed to Richard Kerr, head of group development for CMP's parent, United Business Media plc. "UBM's Kerr", Expoweb says, "outlined conditions in the Middle East, India and China, and added that he avoids “the PIGS—Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.” I think he should be careful about what's been added to his soup if he decides to dine in any Portuguese, Italian, Greek or Spanish restaurants in the near future.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Confusing everybody

I've arrived in England now where things are beginning to look a touch misty and autumnal. Kids in this country go back to school tomorrow. Heathrow was altogether less chaotic than predicted yesterday. Something not quite right there.

Something not quite right as well with the world's perception of the China financial information stocks. Once again, supposed experts (harumph!) have confused China Finance Online (JRJC) for a serious company and the two listed arms of Xinhua Finance for one another.

This time, it's the Motley Fool, rarely more wisely named. Maybe because JRJC is listed on NASDAQ they think it must be important. If Xinhua Finance (which is also in the financial information business) weren't listed on the oddly named Tokyo Mothers' Board, maybe it would earn more of the attention it deserves. Instead, that wonderful East Coast arrogance assumes that NASDAQ-listed subsidiary, Xinhua Finance Media (XFML) must be more important than its parent. Surely, the thinking must go, these nice folk over in China must realise New York is more important than Japan, that actually little of importance in the world takes place outside the Five Boroughs, except of course when the Yankees are playing away games...

XFML actually has little to do with financial information and is more a general China media play. Xinhua Finance is a much bigger company and altogether more convincing than JRJC, but don't tell the Motley Fool because they think "You can think of the company [JRJC] as analogous to the finance arm of Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO), or to MarketWatch, part of the Dow Jones family of services at News Corp". It's not, but if they can get the ill-informed but opinionated investment advisors to think that, good for them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It'll be alright....

I'm in Cologne for UFI's Intenational Summer University programme and, at dinner last night in the Chocolate Museum (where, by the way, peppery black chocolate makes an interesting alternative to peanuts with cocktails), I heard again the general relief and, to some extent, suprise in the trade fair industry that it's so far doing OK.

There was a lot of nervousness at the beginning of the year that economic downturn would mean that 2008 was a really flat year. In most markets, so far, this hasn't really been the case. It's at worst solid and, in some cases, doing really well. Hmmmm. Will this last. That's now the question and I can sense the corporate types already rehearsing their budget padding speeches for the upcoming 2009 reviews. "Worst is yet to come boss"....

Meanwhile, Alibaba has reported a 136% surge in first half net profits. Revenues are up just 48% though, so I guess the collective Ali-belts have been tightened in the last six months. Mind you, given the generally skinny waists up there in Hangzhou, there can't be too many notches left to tighten.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Swinging back into action

I haven't been on holiday this whole time...honestly. Firstly, it was an unexpected trip to Cyprus for an interesting little project. Then I was admittedly, on holiday (sailing in Croatia a real highlight). But, the blog has, I'm afraid, taken a long summer break. Sorry to our regulars about that.

World economic downturn notwithstanding, this has been a very busy month or so for us. I'm now back on the road again, this time in Germany. T-mobile has equipped the country's nifty ICE trains with wireless broadband. So, I'm writing this at something like 150 km/h between Frankfurt and Cologne.

It's hard to know what to write about first; CMP's little spot of bother with feisty jewellers, Alibaba's Jack Ma telling his staff to prepare for economic winter or a little flurry of acquisition activity by Guangzhou-based Global Markets (including acquiring Tradeeasy for $1.5 mn).

The events businesses including the not-for-sale Reed Exhibitions are all reporting decent growth despite fears of a bad year.

We'll try to get back to regular posting even as this trip takes us through Germany, the UK and the US, where we'll end up at the FIPP/ABM B2B conference in New York City.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

G'day Beijing

I had missed interesting activity in China by those tele-boys from down-under, Telstra. According to "Now we are talking", the company has "acquired 55 per cent of two Chinese internet businesses with leading positions in the fast-growing online auto and digital device advertising sectors".

The businesses concerned are Norstar Media and Autohome/PCPop. No price was disclosed. Norstar, the post continues, "operates the popular auto site and leading digital device site" while "Autohome/PCPop operates the leading auto site and popular digital device site".

The piece goes on to mention that Telstra had already bought 51% of the real estate site SouFun back in 2006.

Meanwhile, it may be "Hyvä aamu Beijing" for those fun Finns from Nokia. Staying on the telco/media theme, we see that they're linking-up with Baidu for a new mobile search service. According to the report "Baidu will provide a China mobile search platform for Nokia's new 'Widsets' service, and the product will be pre-loaded in Nokia handsets".

The boundaries between the telcos and media really are blurring rapidly. Long discussed, finally happening.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Motley Fool is confused

It's not suprising really, but people are muddling their Xinhua Finance and Xinhua Finance Media (XFML). Now, nobody's going to accuse the Motley Fool of being the world's most reliable source of investment advice, but this one's a real ******'s muddle.

They're comparing the NASDAQ-listed XFML with the NASDAQ-listed China Finance Online. That would be all well and good if they were in the same line of business, but they're not. The company with which the comparison should be made is the Tokyo Mothers-listed Xinhua Finance (parent of XFML). And Xinhua Finance is a much better business than the vastly over-rated China Finance Online in our humble opinion.

XFML is a mini-media conglomerate in the making. CEO Fredy Bush describes it as "a leading media group in China with nationwide access to the upwardly mobile demographic. Through its synergistic business groups, Broadcast, Print and Advertising, XFMedia offers a total solution empowering clients at every stage of the media process and connecting them with their target audience. Its unique platform covers a wide range of media assets, including television, radio, newspaper, magazine, outdoor, online and other media assets".

XFML trades on NASDAQ at a p.e. of around 9.
Xinhua Finance trades in Tokyo at a bargain p.e. of 4.4.
China Finance has no p.e. because it has never made any money.

Beware the Fool.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More on Plaxo

In the last couple of posts I've done on social networking (most recently here), I've mentioned Plaxo's Pulse which is quietly picking up users. There are still 3 times as many on my Linked In network but far more new ones on Pulse. We'll draw a veil over the silliness on Facebook.

Suntec's new CEO in Singapore, Pieter Idenburg, has proven himself to be a man of the times by starting a group for M.I.C.E. Professionals on Pulse. I didn't know they have groups. Now I do. Good stuff Pieter. There are already quite a few interesting people there. Let's see how it evolves.

Of bits, bytes and frocks at IDG

There's an interesting piece in the UK's Guardian newspaper about IDG titled "The biggest company you've never heard of". It focuses a lot on the moves the company has been taking to cut out print where it can, reporting on the increase of Infoworld's margins in the US from -3% to 37%. Three cheers for that.

Across Asia, it reports, they have had to take various strategies:

...ditching print operations isn't a global strategy: the pace of migration to the web varies by country, according to [IDG founder Pat] McGovern. IDG doesn't have print titles in Korea, and has axed most of them in Japan, for instance, but in India, where internet penetration is less than 3% of the population, he believes print will be the primary platform for some time to come.

It goes on to report how McGovern sleeps comfortably with his position in China:

In China, IDG was one of the first venture capitalists, moving into the country soon after the implementation of Deng Xiaoping's "open door" policy. The company now has 20 titles of its own in China, and publishes a further 22 under licence from companies such as Condé Nast and Hearst.

McGovern talks with pride about how he is a "trusted" partner for the Chinese government and claims that neither operating in China nor reporting on his own investments offers any ethical challenges. "We don't review government policy or economic policy - the issue doesn't come up because a publication like Harper's Bazaar is just not going to cover those subjects," he says.
Bits, bytes and frocks. It seems to be a winning formula.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

For example...

There's an interesting piece in yesterday's Daily Telegraph from London on developments at United Business Media. It looks at the direction the company will take after the Informa merger fell through and after the reorganisation of CMPi.

It picks an odd example to illustrate why UBM is not so exposed to advertising downturns as it used to be:

Some investors have lingering doubts that UBM is over-exposed to the extremely shaky advertising market but that's an unfair perception these days. The lion's share of the company's profits now come from events - such as the Shanghai Boat Show - plus news distribution, subscriptions and data products.
Now, there's nothing wrong with CMP Sinoexpo's boat show in Shanghai (pictured here). Quite contrary. It's all set to consolidate its position as the most important in China. But how did that jump to the Torygraph writer's mind I wonder?

The article also speculates that "smaller rivals Centaur, ITE and Wilmington could all appear on UBM's radar screen". ITE has an interesting Central Asia portfolio which would nicely fill in the gap between the existing CMP activities in Europe and East Asia.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Going, going...CMP is almost gone

The name that is. Back in March, we reported on the demise of the CMP name in the US. Now it's the turn of Europe, with a similar bust-up of the CMP Information business into four divisions.

Two Asia implications for all this:

  1. Asia may now be the only place in the world where the CMP name, originating as it did in Manhasset, Long Island, continues to exist. The branding of the new CMPi isn't clear to me (their web site hasn't been updated yet). As my prediction of a rebranding as CMP O'Asia have not yet come to pass, it looks like it'll continue to exist here for a while. There's a long tradition for that: the Chinese name by which the company is know in the mainland (博华) pre-dates CMP as is the same name used when the business was called Miller Freeman.
  2. Simon Foster, the new CEO of the "International Media" (it's not clear from the announcement whether this is a name or a description) business plays an important role as CMP Asia's partner in the CPhi shows in India and China, and the food ingredients fairs. There's also a connection with his Seatrade cruise shipping events which were originally brought into the company by the Hong Kong Trade Fair Group when it was acquired way back in 1994.
Obviously, not everybody is entirely thrilled with the move. CMPi CEO Gary Hughes is "seeking new opportunities" according to UBM's press release.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Artsy and elitist

We wrote earlier in the month about the goings on (or not, as they're off the shelves) at China's "what's on " mags directed at expats. The combined power of SEEC Media and the propaganda department's China Intercontinental Press were not enough to keep Time Out and That's Beijing out of the sinkhole of pre-Olympic bureaucratic paranoia which is dragging several important business sectors down the drain.

Well, there's an entertaining round-up of the latest developments in all this at Danwei, Jeremy Goldkorn's blog of "Chinese media, advertising, and urban life". It appears that CIP sold the rights to That's Beijing to China Electric Power Press for Rmb10 million (US$1.4 million). Goldkorn reminds us that the magazine's original founder, Mark Kitto, still has a trademark dispute with CIP over this (that's a long story but is often rolled out as a warning to those who think they can set up publishing businesses in China. Guess what guys? You can't). Electric power got a bit boring lads?

Then he launches a broadside against the newly-launched Expat Mag. "Because, you know", he says, "expatriates in Beijing and Shanghai are not exposed to enough advertising for luxury clothing brands, pens and watches. There is a clear and urgent demand amongst expatriate readers for breathy, bilingual advertorials about expensive expensive beauty products and accessories, and vacations in luxury spa resorts". Ha Ha.

Scroll down through the comments which are worth a read too. Someone posting anonymously as "xix" says "Expat Mag has no license whatsoever ... it's done by the World Events Agency, connected to the "Expat Shows" that were held this past year". Another accuses Danwei of being elitist.

Altogether more entertaining than we deserve on a Saturday morning...except, that is for the poor schmucks trying to run these magazines. They get a pretty bad rap here. Comment-er Hunxuer opines " they're just trash, advertising and personals for guys trying to bang a local girl for the night or a local girl trying to hook a hubby. I mean, for God's sake, how many times can one read about Shangri-La, Yangshuo or the mysteries of traditional Chinese soups without wanting to rip the writer's throat out???". Hear, hear.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pssst...want to buy a magazine?

As regular readers will know, we've followed the travails of the Lexicon Group in Singapore (nee Panpac, married name Sun Business Network, now divorced) for some time (see here for most recent post). Now, the company says it "is currently reviewing its magazines publishing programme (both print and online versions) and streamlining its operations with the view to
reduce cost and improve productivity, so as to cushion the impact of rising cost and
challenging market conditions".

The long-suffering boss, Ricky Ang says "we hope to complete the review and finalise
our publishing programme for the current year and beyond within the next few weeks". While talking about the potential viability (or not) of some of its websites, the company is also saying "In the pipeline, there are also plans to launch several new publications, which will be announced by the Group in due course". Very brave boys.

Current publications include Singapore Business Visitor, Smart Investor, and Port O' Call for visiting military personnel.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

18% growth in Asia's trade fair industry

We just published our annual UFI/BSG report on trade fairs in Asia. The press release is over at our corporate blog. There's information as well on the UFI web site.

India was the fastest-growing market last year up 50% although the 650,000 sq. metres of space sold by organisers was just 10% of the total in the region's largest market, China. That accounts for 51% of Asia's exhibitions industry now.

Thunderbirds are go...

For anybody of my vintage who grew up in the UK, Thunderbirds was a children's TV series featuring puppets, spaceships and derring-do adventure, spiced up with the lovely Lady Penelope are her chauffeur Parker.

For those interested in international business, however, it's a business school located at a former US air force training base in Arizona. Founded in 1946, it describes itself as "the oldest and largest graduate management school in the United States focused solely on preparing international business leaders".

What's all this got to do with Asia business media? Well, one of Thunderbird's most successful alumni is Merle Hinrichs, founder and CEO of Global Sources. Over the years, a series of eager T-bird alumni has rattled their way up in the tatty cargo lifts of Vita Tower in Aberdeen, Global Sources' HQ, to start their careers in Asian business.

What put this in my mind? Yesterday's press release on Vietnam is the answer. As companies try to diversify their sources of supply away from the increasingly expensive south China factories, Vietnam is an obvious alternative. The press release quotes GS's Sarah Benecke saying "
Buyers are always looking for new products and competitive suppliers. Vietnam has proven to be highly competitive in numerous sectors – including furniture and home décor".

And the Thunderbird connection? Andrew Vuong has just been appointed as Country Manager for Vietnam of Asian Sources Publications Limited, Global Sources' Hong Kong sales representative. Vuong has a T-bird MBA. His resume also includes periods at Positec Industrial and Smith Barney in the US.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Asia in the lead

Thanks to IDG's Colin Crawford for the heads-up that Morgan Stanley has just produced its regular technology trends review. Always plenty of interest there. I was particularly taken this time by the slides showing that Asia has moved ahead of all other regions in several key measures:

Asia in the Power Pack

Our friends at TradeShow Week have released their annual Power Pack listing of " the 100 most influential people in the tradeshow industry today". There are a number of familiar names from the Asia Pacific in the full list:

  • Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands is listed as a 'head honcho'. It notes "Everybody knows what kind of powerhouse the Sands complex in Macau has become, with tradeshow organizers elbowing each other to book space there. Then there are the plans for Singapore, for resorts in Kansas (you can look it up) and who knows what else".
  • Info Salons CEO Jo-Anne Kellaway from Australia is listed as a 'go-getter'. The report notes "After starting out by managing registration for 10 events in Sydney, Australia, Kelleway's company now is involved in more than 500 events annually, providing services to organizers in emerging markets from offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Dubai, United Arab Emirates".
  • Cliff Wallace of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre and current President of UFI. "It's a long way from Greenville, S.C., to Hong Kong. On his way from the former to the latter, Wallace has become one of the best-known facility managers in the world".
  • They worry if CMP Asia's Jime Essink is feeling "claustrophobic" focusing only on Asia. I'll bet he's not. I think he thinks he has one of the best jobs in the business.
  • The CCPIT's Wang Jinzhen also makes the list and is described as "arguably the most important Chinese government official involved with the tradeshow industry".
Modesty prevents me from highlighting the final name on the (alphabetical) list, but you can look over to our less modest corporate blog if you want to learn more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Alimama mia! It's still free

I've been in Greece all week attending exhibition industry meetings with UFI. Once again, I've been a lazy blogger.

Catching up with e-mails and news feeds, I notice that Alibaba continues to be a disciple of Chris "Long Tail" Anderson's credo that "Free is the future of business". Alimama was always one of their dafter product names, but now we learn from Reuters that it, like most of Ali-launches, it's free.

Once again, building market share is the goal. Reuters quotes Wu Yongming, Alimama's General Manager saying, "The goal for set by [Jack Ma] is to acquire the largest share of online advertising in China within 3-5 years". The piece goes on to say that "After a 10-month trial run, has about 400,000 registered websites and records 2.8 billion daily page views".

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ning on the rise

My social networking mission continues. Back in early May I commented that I thought "Facebook remains a time sink, good for tracking the antics of family and friends. No real relevance to B2B media and information. The LinkedIn network is impressive although I'm not quite sure about the crowding of new features onto the home page. Plaxo's Pulse is coming fast up in the outside lane...". My basic opinions on those don't change much although I'm not sure if Plaxo won't run out of puff before the final furlong.

The interesting development of the last month has been the emergence of a lot more activity on several quite relevant Ning-based micro-networks. These are designed to allow special interest groups to set up their own mini-Facebooks which have a much more independent look and feel than a Facebook (or now LinkedIn) group.

So far, I'm keeping track of three:

  • Event Crowd - a UK-based network for the events industry created by Simon Burton of Exposure Event Creations. I joined in January. It was quiet for a while, but appears to be picking up now with new members I've noticed from Asia and elsewhere in Europe. There are 758 members.
  • American Business Media - this was set up a month or so ago by the association in the US and already has some 453 members.
  • Folio: mediaPRO - storming along though and very interesting is Folio magazine's new Ning site. Set up only a week or so ago, this already has 1,261 members from all over the world. It's already much more international than the magazine itself which is very US-centric. As you can see from the URL, they've hidden the Ning antecedents a bit more carefully than the other two. They have actively promoted the creation of Groups on various special interest topics. There's one on B2B with over 100 members and I set up an International group yesterday. It will be interesting to see what sort of activity is generated.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blog of blogs

I'm not sure if that's really the right term and consultants who charge higher fees than me would probably come up with grand phrases like aggregation. However, the Asian blogs which cover our industry have been quite excited by the OpenWeb.Asia initiative. According to Kaiser Kuo, this is an initiative of Gang Lu from the Mobinode blog.

They've added a Facebook Group and seem to be planning a number of other initiatives around this grouping of blogs from China, Korea, Japan, Australia, Vietnam and Singapore. Seems like there should be some Indian input here as well guys.

Gang Lu notes "We are very happy to say that the plan for OpenWeb Asia 08′ - the first pan-Asia conference is to be announced soon". More here or, if you prefer, there: you can link this OPML file (I've not idea what that is by the way) into your RSS Reader (that I do know).

I also notice a post on the Facebook page from Preetam Rai in Thailand who announces the first BarCamp event in Cambodia. That's cool!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Generating traffic with bikinis

You have to hand it to the Alibabas. They certainly do know how to generate traffic. Our post on Tuesday about the new Alibaba News service and it's "Sweet Bikini Show" gave us our highest number of readers for some months over the past couple of days. Boys will be boys I suppose.

It appears that the home page pictures revolve around from a quite extensive gallery. Today it's the turn of sexy cars. Very sexy cars, it has to be said. I wonder if that will draw the readers to our blog pages as effectively?

Time out for Time Out

It seems it's Time Out's moment for standing in the corner, hands on head, until it feels really, really sorry and can grovel suitably to the GAPP in China. According to the London Times, the June issue of the Beijing edition of the magazine has been pulped. We have to assume they won't be considered half sorry enough until at least after the Olympics, more sign of paranoia in Beijing about what constitutes a "successful" Games.

Nothing to do with the June issue focusing on the environment, we're sure.

It seems that, despite operating under the cover of a powerful Chinese publisher such as SEEC Media, Time Out, has suffered the same fate as One Media's Rolling Stone efforts. And this despite TO Beijing being an English-language publication targeting the dwindling number of expats being allowed to stay in the country as the visa crackdown bites.

Update: thanks to one correspondent who already pointed out to me that another "what's on" mag, "That's China" has also been taken off the streets recently. This despite it being published together with China Intercontinental Press which is I gather a direct offshoot of the Propaganda Department. "Proof positive" as my correspondent says "that as far as media is involved , guanxi has its distinct limitations".

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Korea, Japan and Hong Kong in the Internet fast lane

Not a bikini in sight in the Web 2.0 Asia post on Akamai's new report on the state of the internet. Mind you that profile pic looks a touch dodgy for a male blogger named Chang.

Anyway, the jist of the piece is that Korea has the world's fastest internet connections with 64% of connection faster than 5 mbps. That world average is 16%. Japan comes in 2nd fastest (48%), followed by Hong Kong (35%). After that, the list goes Sweden, Romania, Belgium, USA, Netherlands, Nepal (the only other entry from Asia and a surprising one at that!) and Norway.

Alibaba enters the news business

We sometimes get asked whether companies like Alibaba are really media companies. We're convinced that they are and the overlap bewteen the sourcing/directory services they provide and a more traditional concept of media is clear to see in the latest Ali-innovation, News. As you can see, though, it appears that the news values are more inspired by Rupert Murdoch than the Financial Times.

Click through; the 10 second tour is quite cool. Stories appear to be mainly sourced from Reuters, China Knowledge and Alibaba's own team (see the Computex Taipei report). There's some some interesting stuff there.

So, shame on you lads for the Sweet Bikini Show page. I have examined every single picture very carefully and still can't work out what value this will be to the world's B2B traders. The fact that the pictures are all 'branded' should give us a clue, but to what I'm not sure.

I should not be a lazy blogger

I should not be a lazy blogger
I should not be a lazy blogger...

...because if I am, people stop reading this. I do have excuses, but it's been over a week and I wonder what I should write about now. Options include:

  1. The possible merger of United Business Media and Informa. At a time that Reed is set to blow its B2B business to bits, those two are, according to the Daily Telegraph, looking to join hands to form a new GBP 3 billion media giant. Don't forget, it's not all that long ago that Informa swallowed IIR.
  2. More senior management departures at the South China Morning Post.
  3. Or, how about a new joint venture in India between Germany's Burda and HT Media, the company which owns the Hindustan Times?
  4. More challenges at the Lexicon Group (born Panpac Media and then for a while Sun Business Network), still tidying up after it's adventures with Bruno Wu.
Take your pick. In the meantime, I'll return to my lines..."I should not be a lazy blogger". Sounds a bit rude actually, doesn't it?

Monday, June 02, 2008

BDA TV - pointing us in the right direction

Duncan Clark's BDA consultancy in Beijing has played an important role in pointing me in the right direction over the past 10 years or so as we've grappled with telecoms, internet and new media developments in Asia.

No surprise then that he's leading the way in what's broadly speaking our own business sector - media and telecoms consulting - with his new "BDA TV" YouTube initative. We'll see whether this is how Web 2.0 transforms our own business and it's good to see someone giving it a go.

This first piece is China Internet 101 but none the worse for that. I look forward to the next episode.

Leaving Reuters

I hope these two things are not connected. No sooner have we quoted the man, than Reuters' Asia head of media, Azhar Rafee, announces he's leaving. According to the report, "he will leave by end of June, and is planning to get into an entrepreneurial venture down the line, though he is taking a break for now".

Rafee has been based in Hong Kong. The report suggests that his job will be splits in two between "Alisa Bowen, based in London, [who] will take over the strategic aspects of his position, while current media sales head Joachim Schmaltz will take over the consumer aspects of his job".

I hope Rafee's entrepreneurial venture is something more solid sounding than the profile I just came across through my LinkedIn contacts. One chap who sounds as though he's been smoking funny cigarettes in Thailand for too long describes himself as a "yoga instructor, mangosteen trader and entrepreneur". Hmmmm.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Coal mines, forests....anything but B2B

We reported before on Kenfair's acquisition of a coal mine (click on the Kenfair label if you want to follow that saga more closely). It seems that they were trend setters.

We wondered why non-exhibitions people were buying into Eddie Leung's Info Communication, the Hong Kong GEM-listed parent company of Paper Communication, organiser of industrial trade fairs in China. All is now becoming clear as they too appear to have gone into the coal mining business. This set the market alight on Friday when volume spiked to 142,550,000 shares, 147 times above the daily average of 966,034. Mind you, after all that excitement, the share price ended up down 3¢ at HK$0.32.

Meanwhile, B2B online market TradeEasy has gone down the same route, announcing the acquisition of a forestry project in Papua, Indonesia for US$157 million. We first reported that back in October in the same posting linked above relating to Kenfair's entry into the coal-mining business.

It seems that the China's hunger for natural resources is looking like a better bet to some than US consumers' demand for Chinese-manufactured bric-a-brac these days.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Reuters India update

We've written a couple of times over the past year about Reuter's activities in India including its divorce from Bennett Coleman and its launch of the "Market Light" service for farmers. There's an interesting interview today on with Azhar Rafee, Executive VP Media (Asia). Highlights include:

  • Market light is now covering prices of 17 crops and is targeted to be in three States with 250 - 300,000 farmers using it. Rafee emphasises the need for the service to be multi-lingual so that the farmers can access it easily, a challenge for all providers of business information in India as they dip down below the English-speaking elites in the major cities.
  • On the divorce from Bennett Coleman (the owners of the Times of India), he says "from the strategic partnership perspective we felt that the direction we wanted to take in India was different from theirs. Sometimes what happens is that the goals we set for ourselves - we did achieve them - but to move forward it was better for us and them that we work with separate strategy. We remain extremely bullish on India and the team size is increasing, but more importantly, it’s important to note that we are engaged to figure out how to take this forward and whom to take this forward with". Which is corporate waffle speak for 'it didn't work out with them, we know that India's important but we're not really sure still how we're going to do it'.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shuffling the pack at Xinhua

Much discussion yesterday about the significance of Fredy Bush's decision to step aside as CEO of Xinhua Finance in favour of Jae Lie (both pictured here...Fredy's the woman).

According to Reuters, the company will focus on its "aims to divest non-core assets and focus on its main China market as it tries to boost a share price off almost 60 percent this year". It notes that, as well as the CEO change, the company "launched a consent solicitation on $100 million of 10 percent senior guaranteed notes due 2011. The move is aimed at providing it flexibility to dispose of some non-core businesses, including communications and investor relations firm Taylor Rafferty". It quotes new CEO Lie as saying "We're trying to get the bondholders' consent to allow us to possibly divest some of the assets that we have that are tied down to the bond."

Founder Fredy Bush will step up to the role of Vice Chair of Tokyo-listed XFL while retaining the CEO position at NASDAQ-listed subsidiary Xinhua Finance Media which she seems intent on building up into a stand-alone China media business.

According to Barron's, which describes XFL in a somewhat self-serving way ("kinda"...what kinda writing is that?), the market was underwhelmed. It notes that "shares of China’s two answers to Barron’s Online (kinda) are trading in opposite directions today, as Xinhua Finance Media Limited (XFML) falls 11% TO $3.01, one of the biggest decliners on the Nasdaq, and China Finance Online (JRJC) rises almost 16% to $23.80". Click back through the Xinhua labels below if you want to recall the hatchet job that Dow Jones did on Fredy Bush last year.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Developing in a striding manner

I should stand in the corner with my hands on my head for making fun of other people's English. With schoolboy French and kindergarten Chinese to my name, who am I to poke fun? China Economic Net chooses to illustrate their posts with dodgy bikini shots of Jessica Biel (shame on you all for clicking through that link), I'll treat them as fair game. Today's article on e-commerce payment systems tells us that " the third party electronic payment industry in China has been developing in a striding manner". It goes on to tell us that, while 50 or more Chinese companies are engaged in this business, that 80% of the market is controlled by the top three:

It goes on to note that "In 2007, the trading volume in the third party payment market broke through RMB100 billion yuan, more than doubled year on year and thus continuing to maintain a growth rate over 100 percent for five consecutive years".

There's lots of intereting detail in there and, if that all gets a bit much for you, they also link to the story about how "American supermodel Marisa Miller has knocked actress Lindsay Lohan from the top of men magazine Maxim's list of the 100 hottest women in the world".

Glory be. We wouldn't want to take ourselves too seriously now would we. I was sore tempted to post the picture of Jessica Biel but thought that would be cheaper traffic-generating ruse than writing the word "sex" in the labels. We'll leave that to China Economic Net.

Thoughts on mobile and China's restructuring

I won't add to the torrent of coverage of China's decision to restructure its telecoms industry. See Ogilvy's Kaiser Kuo here if you would like to see some comment. The China Daily yesterday also confirmed that the long-delayed launch of China's domestic 3G networks will follow in the wake of the restructuring announcement. China Mobile is deemed to have got the short end of the regulatory stick as, according to the newspaper, it "will be granted a 3G license based on the country’s home-made technology TD-SCDMA, while China Telecom and China Netcom will get theirs based on the WCDMA and CDMA2000 standard respectively".

Just last Thursday, I was posting that the business opportunity of mobile was on my mind and it still is. Interesting then to see Tangos' post over at the China Web 2.0 Review in which he reports on also-ran browser Opera's report on its Opera Mini usage in China. The top 10 sites visited from mobiles (and, using Opera Mini - so not a very representative sample) are, it says:


As Tangos notes, this means that web portal content and search account for about 55% of mobile Internet use in China. Neither e-mail nor e-commerce are really showing up the rankings.

That doesn't mean that it's all vertical search and SMS marketing for the B2B world, though. The post goes on to the note that "Two social networking sites are on the list: is a mobile social networking site operated by, which is the partner of Opera Mini in China, also has quite big mobile user base. is a website for mobile software information and downloads".

Update: There's a particularly clear description of what's happening over here at David Feng's techblog86.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Alibaba Japan to list as well?

There's an interesting Reuters piece which appeared in various places over the weekend (here in the UK Guardian newspaper). The two key highlights of the article which focuses on the newly-constituted Softbank/Alibaba Japan venture are:

  1. The company expects to double its workforce in Japan by March next year. The article says the company "currently has 80 people in China and 35 employees in Japan dedicated to the Japanese site".
  2. More interesting is the suggestion from incoming CEO Makoto Kouyama, formerly of MySpace (a Newscorp JV with Softbank) that the company may go for a separate listing in Japan. The article quotes Kouyama saying "Softbank is regarded as a telecoms company, so if companies like Yahoo (Japan) stay under the blanket of Softbank without listing, no one knows how they are valued. It's hard to gauge the value of Internet companies like us unless we go out on the market. So in that sense, the possibility (of listing) is there."
This will be interesting to watch.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Highlights from Global Sources' conference call

Seeking Alpha generously posts its transcripts of analyst conference calls and allows humble bloggers like your truly to use up to 400 words of them. Thanks guys! Here are some highlights from their transcription of last night's Global Sources call:

Merle Hinrichs on the earthquake’s business impact: From a business perspective which is on the minds of many investors, I am sure we do not expect any particular impact. Global Sources has a very small number of customers in this area. And all of our team members and their families in the vicinity are safe.

Hinrichs on print: …as expected, our print services lagged behind the strong growth in online, and exhibitions and were down approximately 1% to 11.6%. While our English-language export focus titles performed well, our Chinese-language titles including Electronic Engineering Times for China and the Chief Executive China Publications continue to be slow.

Hinrichs on the economic slowdown: …our business has counter-cyclical aspects to it. And to date our numbers are demonstrating this strength. While others are experiencing flatter declining business, the number of our online customers is growing and the number of booths at our shows in April was higher than ever. …Our value proposition remains strong for both buyers and sellers and becomes even more important during an economic slowdown. Suppliers need our services. They need to grow revenues or alternative revenues. The key issue for suppliers, in order to remain successful and to survive in a difficult market, is to open new markets by generating a steady flow of quality sales leads. This, in today's market, includes high growth areas such as Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. From the buyers prospective, in a slowdown, buyers still need to fill their retail shelves, with appropriately designed products, and at appropriate price points. They have to source and we are here to make that job easier for them.

Hinrichs responding to a question on whether Global Sources is an e-commerce company: Now, our revenue is derived from providing comprehensive marketing services, including the online service. In fact, the majority of our revenue comes from online services. So we have called it, of course it is a marketing service as opposed to an e-commerce service. Our competitors, who provide basically the same service, have referred to their revenue from precisely the same of value proposition as e-commerce.