Friday, August 31, 2007

More opinion on HK

My friend and fellow member of the Vision 2047 Foundation, Stephen Brown has strong and well articulated on many things. Much of the time he's right.

In his column in today's Standard newspaper, I'd have to say that he's half right. The article suggests the following and I agree with all of this:

  • That the Venetian launch was a cracking success.
  • That the convention and exhibition business is an important part of the mix in Macau and that Adelson's track record in Las Vegas is impressive.
  • That the Venetian will be pushing hard to win market share.
  • That the Hong Kong industry will look to the government to help it respond.
His view gets fuzzy as far as I'm concerned when he seems to push the argument that the industry in Hong Kong only revolves around the HKTDC:

In the long term, you can either back the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to run a more successful convention business than the man from Las Vegas or you can vote the other way. I know which way I would choose.

Although it's fair to say that the government has made a major contribution of land to the two exhibition venues in town, it's hardly fair to suggest that the TDC's trade fairs are subsidised. The TDC argues (with some justification) that it's highly profitable exhibitions activity actually reduces the subsidies required for other trade promotion activities.

Brown's argument also conveniently ignores the very important contribution made to Hong Kong's exhibitions and conventions industry by private sector players such as CMP Asia, Kenfair and, more recently and very dramatically, Global Sources. The latter announced just yesterday another expansion of their already impressive activities at AsiaWorld-Expo. They may not have Diana Ross - although I did get to post pictures of CEO Merle Hinrichs with belly dancers in tow earlier this year - but they're not going to adopt the James Tien solution and simply roll over for the Las Vegas Sands' aggressive sales team.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Roll over and play dead in Hong Kong says Tien

There is a long tradition in powerful Chinese families of sending the less able into politics in order to stop them messing up the important stuff - the business. Bear this in mind as you read the extraordinary statements in today's South China Morning Post from James Tien, chairman of the supposedly pro-business Liberal Party:

Some might have dismissed as a "junket" the 12-day fact-finding tour by eight [Hong Kong] legislators to Dubai, Europe and the US to study exhibition and conferencing facilities. Not so one of the participants, tycoon and Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun, who said the thousands of dollars taken from the public coffers to fund the trip would help Hong Kong save money in the longer term. "The conclusion we got from the study trip was that there is no future for Hong Kong to keep expanding our exhibition and conferencing facilities, as the ones we have are tiny compared to those in other countries. So, rather than spending more money to specialise in this area, we would do better to diversify our development," he said. So they learned nothing positive? "Come on, its still a conclusion if the conclusion says we can't do it here. One just can't get that conclusion by surfing websites.” So there.

Wrong - I would still dismiss it as a junket. What a moron!

For more reasoned views on the issue, see this piece in yesterday's Standard newspaper which quotes HKCEC's Cliff Wallace and AsiaWorld-Expo's Allen Ha.

Stop, in the name of the Venetian

If you're in the event's organising business, then the opening night at the Venetian must have been a project to drool over. Taiwanese pop diva A-Mei joined Alan Tam and Cirque de Soleil to entertain the capacity crowd. And, as my amateurish photo shows, Diana Ross suprised the 15,000 in the Arena and then entertained the 3,500 who sat down for dinner in ballroom.

The opening week is a sell-out and Sheldon Adelson and his colleagues must believe they're on to a winner. We look forward to seeing the first major business events there in early October.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Off to Macau

I'll be heading over to Macau in a few minutes, along with some 3,000 of my closest friends for the opening of the Venetian. Many column inches around the world today are occupied with it including Keith Bradsher's piece in the IHT which also appears in the New York Times (or is it the other way round? I'm never sure).

Interestingly, the headline writers have taken different tacks with the same copy. In Paris, the IHT boys have gone the "uncertainty" route which has been favoured in Hong Kong the past few days. "For Macao, gambling is no guarantee for the future", they say. Meanwhile, the NYT takes the more gee shucks, ain't it big approach with "Bigger Than Las Vegas? That’s Macao’s Bet".

The invitation card I received to the Venetian event was indeed the biggest I have ever received for anything. More tomorrow on the party itself.

XFML gets whipped for no good reason

It must be perplexing for the people at Xinhua Finance to see perceptions of themselves having shifted from exemplar of how to take advantage of China's challenging media opportunities to whipping boys. This may be linked to the current fashion in the US for assuming that all things Chinese are tainted, rotten and generally painted in lead. Over-reaction is one of the US's more endearing weaknesses.

This time, it relates to the news that the company has spent $5 million to acquire 70% of a business called Small World Television. Hopefully, this has nothing to do with that most sickeningly cloying of all Disneyland rides. Xinhua's Fredy Bush says "Small World's knowledge of the entertainment industry, strengths in TV production, in combination with our understanding of the audiences in China and our own production resources within the XFMedia platform, will enable us to develop and produce more and better programs with broad appeal to our target demographic. We expect that this acquisition will generate new revenue streams through program syndication and advertising sales."

But there's no pleasing some people. Seeking Alpha publishes a dyspeptic rant by George Gutowski who accuses Xinhua Finance of inadequate financial information in its press release which he says "gushes about the transaction and how it will strengthen and enhance everything. It’s almost like extra vitamins in my cereal."

By the last paragraph, he's getting quite fired up. The bold text is his: "These guys are more than capable of providing substantive financial information. It’s supposed to be a core competency. The omission, which was clearly intended, has too much smokescreen in it. Investors will find it hard to come to grips with".

Friday, August 24, 2007


I am aware that it is easy to 'borrow' other people's content on the web. I'm not sure whether to feel flattered or furious at the discovery that another so-called blog is simply lifting all of the content from this one.

It appears that a copywriter, Michael Fortin (I'm not going to do him the favour of linking to his web site from here) has set up a site called Business Web Review. You may find that the content on this site looks awfully familiar. It seems that it's being used to promote a web design company. Funny, they seem to have forgotten to attribute the content to its original source.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Taiwan pushing hard

An interesting visit to Taipei with a chance to look in a bit more detail at what's happening in the local business events scene here. There are some very lively companies working hard on some innovative projects.

Interestingly also, a whole series of new venue projects has been announced of which I wasn't aware before. I did know that the new TWTC Nangang exhibition hall (47,255 sq. metres in phase 1) is due to open next year. In fact, I got to drive past it. I think it will be ready. From the the outside, it looks pretty much finished now.

What I didn't know were the following which were reported in a local newspaper yesterday:

  • Taichung: 12,198 sq. metre centre due to open in April 2008.
  • Tainan: 3,489 sq. metre centre due to open in December 2008.
  • Nangang: Phase 2 of new hall, 40,000 sq. metres, scheduled to open in December 2012.
  • Taoyuan (near the airport): 64,625 sq. metre venue planned. No opening date given.
Having been space-constrained for years by a very busy Taipei World Trade Centre, there's suddenly going to be all sorts of room for the industry to play with here in Taiwan.

I also learned that years are counted in a different way in Taiwan: considering themselves still the representatives of the original Republic of China, year 1 is considered to be 1911 when Sun Yatsen's republic was founded. So, the Nangang centre is reported as being due to open in the 3rd month of the 97th year (March 2008). Who knew?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Global Sources keeps up the pressure

Watching the two sumos of China B2B squaring up in advance of the Ali-IPO is proving increasingly good fun. Today's it's Global Sources' turn with an announcement of the addition of Tom Melcher and his team at Beijing-based Blue Bamboo China Ventures to the China-focused operations. Blue Bamboo has been acquired by GS subsidiary Trade Media Holdings in the process.

Thanks to my colleague Mark Cochrane for reading the press release more carefully than I did first time round and pointing out that this is more an addition to the "executive lifestyles" side of GS's business than its B2B verticals. The press release notes:

"This transaction is the latest step in our planned build-out of Global Sources' domestic China initiatives, which include the launch of Elegant Living and our new domestic China trade shows and events," said Merle A. Hinrichs, Chairman and CEO of Global Sources. "Elegant Living is directed towards the personal side of Chinese executives' lives and covers subjects such automobiles, city living, fashion and travel. Blue Bamboo adds exciting new consumer brands and subjects such as home design and parenting that complement our efforts nicely. We also expect to benefit from the deep experience of Blue Bamboo's team, particularly CEO Tom Melcher."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back in action

Where to start? There was a hurricane and an earthquake (5.1) in Hawaii. I'm now in Taipei which is cleaning up from Typhoon Sepat which made a real mess when it hit the east coast of China.

I've spent the last couple of days catching up on industry news from while I was aware and I'm not sure what to focus on first. Alibaba continues its pre-IPO blitz of new features and deals with the launch of the Alimama ad exchange service. No need to make fun of that Ali-everything name. It does that all by itself.

Or, maybe it should be the Analysys report that China's online advertising hit over Rmb1.6 billion in the second quarter of the year, up a healthy 31.3%.

Or, my friend Jimé Essink getting the job as CEO of CMP Asia. In some ways, this is a 'return to base' for Jimé with whom I first worked in the mid-1990s when he was Managing Director of Expoconsult in the Netherlands, another United Business Media company which became part of Miller Freeman and is now the European bit of CMP Information that was not sold to Reed Exhibitions in 2000. He's coming in from VNU Exhibitions Europe and Asia which, as a joint venture with Jaarbeurs from Utrecht, is a bit of an oddball in the private equity-controlled Nielsen world.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Radio silence

Just packing up here in Singapore. Congratulations to my friends at Singapore Exhibition Services for winning best exhibition in the Business Events Awards for Food & Hotel Asia. Suntec International Convention & Exhibition Centre walked off with two awards. Well done Warren and Elena. You'll have to get a bigger trophy cabinet if you keep winning.

I'm warning you now of what's likely to be 2 weeks of radio silence here on the Asia Business Media blog. I'm off to Hawaii to join the family and celebrate my in-laws 50 years of marriage. There, that's something better than working.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Holes in the ground in Singapore

Well, I'm here in Singapore for the inaugural Business Events Awards ceremony. I'm at the very nice Ritz Carlton Millenia along with, it would seem from the motorcade in the driveway, a North Korean delegation. No sign of the Dear Leader mind you....too far for his train to come and I gather he doesn't fly. Look after themselves nicely mind you, those comrades from Pyongyang.

There's a large hole in the ground festooned with cranes just across the way which shows that work on the Marina Bay Sands project is well under way. I had no doubt that it would be. But, it's interesting to see the building already taking shape even if that shape is currently largely underground.

I gave a talk to various people from the business events industry this afternoon. There's even more interest here than elsewhere in the region with how the Venetian does in Macau. Obviously, they're 'sister' properties and people (a) would like to see both succeed but (b) wonder how they differentiate themselves from each other. We shall see.