Monday, March 31, 2008

MEHK joins meeting industry alphabet soup

We reported last month on the Hong Kong government's HK$150 million boost to spending on MICE promotion. According to TTG Asia's daily e-newsletter (very useful, by the way), the first major fruit of this will be the establishment by Hong Kong Tourism Board of "an independent MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) arm for event organisers...branded as Meetings and Exhibition Hong Kong (MEHK)".

The piece goes on to quote HKTB executive director, Mr Anthony Lau saying "The overall proposal needs to be approved by the Board and government's Steering Committee for MICE in May 2008. We hope things will materialise in summer. Hopefully, we will expand the MICE team to around 30 gradually as it takes time to recruit the right people."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

...and then there were 5

Those who have been with us for a while may recall that I wrote last October about what I called MICE media mayhem. If you can drag yourself past the awful tabloid alliteration, my basic point was that four regional magazines covering business events in Asia seemed like an awful lot.

"Not so", says the market. TTG MICE, Reed's Events, Panacea's Mix and Haymarket's CEI Asia/Pacific are now joined by MICE in Asia from Red Robin Publishing in Malaysia. This one's a quarterly and is busily building ties with MICE events and organisations around the region. Good luck to them.

It would be unkind to propose an office sweepstake for the first to fall, especially as the whole of Reed Business Information is currently up for sale (no thanks, said APAX).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Of drop-shipping and Ali-Rule Brittania

I am back early from my trip as a result of a piece of good seamanship by the crew of the boat on which I was going to sail back from the Philippines (see here if you're interested to know more about this).

This has allowed me to spend today catching up on what's been going on in the world since I sat on that very white beach in Boracay. One result of that is that I've learned a new word today, "drop-shipping" from this press release on the eMedia Wire. It defines it as:

Drop shipping is a supply chain technique where the retailer, or eBay trader, transfers their customers' shipment details to the wholesaler, who then ships the goods to their clients' customers.

The piece also introduced to an interesting, Shenzhen-based web site that I wasn't aware of, Chinavasion. The site claims to be "the market leading China supplier for EBay dropship sellers and electronics worldwide". To see the lengths that the smaller China based B2B sites have to stretch to persuade now (justifiably) cautious users that they are legit see this exchange at Fraudwatchers. Note the pretty coherent interventions from Chinavasion's own people.

Meanwhile, for those looking to redress the trade imbalance a bit, the UK's Daily Telegraph reports that Alibaba is proposing to set up a site called Export to China, Export to the World. The piece suggests that Alibaba has 268,000 members in the UK and will be targeting them for its new site. I'm eager to see the first China-based Internet forum complaining about being ripped off by exporters in Slough.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Going off line

This blog and I are taking a 10 day break in the Philippines. Please don't do anything too exciting while I'm away and especially not when I'm sailing back next week.

Jack 'n Bill won't play well together

Reports that Jack Ma does not want Alibaba to fall into Microsoft's world when the latter buys Yahoo! have generated some painful headlines. Yahoo! owns 39% of Alibaba after what we called the Yahoolibaba deal when it happened a couple of years ago.

Here's a small selection:

Motley Fool says: Alibaba and the Microhoo Thieves
Forbes pains us with : Alibaba Rubbing Lamps to Buy Back Yahoo! Stake

How about this, from Wired's blogsite, for a good additional level of rumour-mongering: " if is really looking to buy the stake currently owned by Yahoo (as reported by Reuters), Google would likely be the perfect fit", writes Betty Schiffman. You have to say that the idea of Jack Ma sitting in a board meeting with Sergey Brin sounds altogether more probable than the unpleasant prospect of Steve Ballmer trying to bully him around.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Alibaba beats all estimates

This from my colleague Mark Cochrane. It seems that they have beaten all the profit estimates and turned in very good margins.

Let's see how much of a boost that gives them tomorrow:

Net profit: RMB 967.8 million (US$137 million)
Up 340% year on year
Revenues RMB 2.16 billion (US$278 million


Alibaba RMB 622 million
Goldman RMB 947 million
Cazenove RMB 889 million

Actually remarkable margins when compared to the competition.
Sent via BlackBerry.

Ali-where to?

With the stock down 15 - 20% this morning, below $13 and it's IPO price, many might wonder where to now?

Market cap at the lunch time close was US$8.46 bn. That's less than a third of its peak but still not exactly chump change and still 5-6 times what the market says Global Sources is worth.

All eyes will be on the upcoming results announcement. We have to hope for their sake that they hit their numbers!
Sent via BlackBerry.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Smulders' event incorporated into UFI programme

I'm sitting in Beijing where the events in T****t are making internet access even more patchy than usual. I did, though want to pass on this interesting news of UFI's decision to take Seven Smulders' International CEO Forum under its wing. Good for both I'd say. The last event took place in Dubai in January.

The press release says:

Paris, March 11, 2008: UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry has announced that beginning in January 2009 it will launch the “UFI Global CEO Forum for Exhibition Organizers” (UCF). Cliff Wallace, UFI President, announced the new event structure which will keep Seven Smulders, who previously led the exhibition industry’s “International CEO Forum” (ICF), at the head of the UCF programme management, and the Netherlands Council for Trade Promotion (NCH) as a coordinating body for the UCF. Wallace pointed out that “this by-invitation-only event provides a key opportunity for CEO’s of exhibition organising companies from around the globe to identify and discuss the challenges facing the exhibition media and to seek ways to develop new forms of cooperation.” This addition to the UFI portfolio enhances the educational development opportunities for UFI’s members and the industry, one of Wallace’s key goals as UFI President.

Seven Smulders, who has successfully developed the ICF annual programme since 2002, agrees that the incorporation of the UCF into the UFI portfolio will allow it to progress the previous ICF concept to a new level. “This three year agreement,” said Smulders, “seems a natural match for both organisations. As in the past, the UCF will be open to the CEO’s of exhibition organising companies, whether they are UFI members or not. By limiting attendance to 100 senior level participants, we are able to provide a unique forum for our industry decision makers.” On a very restricted basis, CEOs from exhibition venues and service providers may participate in the UCF if they agree to support the event as industry sponsors.

Vincent Gerard, UFI Managing Director, stated, “UFI has wanted to offer the exhibition industry a quality CEO programme for some time. We look forward to working with Seven Smulders and the NCH team to further develop this unique programme opportunity.”

Friday, March 14, 2008

Funny old day on the market for HC

They may have been dumped fairly unceremoniously by prospective marriage partners Global Sources and their share had been down from a 52 week high of HK$1.65 to below HK$0.50, but something went on today late afternoon and HC International's share price shot up 53% to close at HK$0.75. Volume was just 674,000 units, worth HK$500,000 at the closing price.

The price has been bouncing around for a few days and CEO Guo Fansheng yesterday issued a notice to the market in which he said "The board of directors (the “Board”) of HC International, Inc. (the “Company”) has noted the change in price and increase in trading volume of the shares of the Company (the “Shares”) on 13 March, 2008 and wish to state that the Board is not aware of any reason for such change". Hmmm. Something's up.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fast growth disguises challenges

I have become increasingly convinced in recent months that print publishers in China and India have a problem: they are growing too quickly. When ad pages are still growing, there is less incentive to take some of the tough decisions being faced by their counterparts in the US and Europe.

However, despite the active environment for new magazine and newspaper launches in both the Asian giants, they are not immune from the underlying changes in the ways in which media is used. Once those changes begin to take hold, they will face challenges just as great as those trying publishers elsewhere in the world.

I was relieved to see that I am not alone in this view when I read the comments of India Today CEO Ashish Bagga over on I encourage you to read the whole thing but the jist of his point is:

“though print is growing, if you look at the advertising projections for the next 10 years, sure, it’s going to grow, but its it going to grow the way it grew? There are other media forms, including mobile, and telco’s are looking to address the advertising potential. Advertising revenues for print are increasing, but it’s increasing at a decreasing rate. The moment you reailze that gross margins are 25 percent, 23 percent, 20 percent - what’s the trend? If we don’t sow the seeds of investment for the next generation, we have a problem on our hands.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is this embarrassing or what?

You are in the business of issuing financial information.

Your company has already been 'in the wars' with a variety of bad luck bad news stories.

Your system misfires and issues six month old press releases which cause the share price of your New York-listed subsidiary to plummet.

It looks as though the year of the rat is starting off \inauspiciously for the team at Xinhua Finance.

"That's better" for GSOL

The market obviously liked the cut of Mr. Hinrich's jib following yesterday's Global Sources' analyst conference call. The company's share price shot up a remarkable 34.2% following the announcement of Q4 figures and the full year 2007 results as well as reasonably solid projections for the first half of this year.

CFO Eddie Heng told analysts "For the six month period ended June 30, 2008, we anticipate the following; revenue is expected to be in the range of $101 to $102.5 million representing growth of between 16% and 17% as compared to the same period in 2007". Hinrichs, in response to a question on global economic slowdown, said "We have had zero cancellations and we certainly have not have deferments based upon market conditions". He did concede, however, that "there is a great deal of uncertainty as to future demand and where that may come from".

Look out for news on our corporate blog for a new BSG report on Global Sources which is due to be published today.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

At least one person doesn't agree with me

Following my post yesterday about the declining value of China trade along with Alibaba and Global Sources shares, I note with interest that the boys from Hangzhou are fighting back. Alibaba CEO David Wei is putting on a more than brave face and proposing that "the United States subprime mortgage crisis won't hurt growth at - and may even help small and medium e-commerce firms win more deals".

The article goes on to quote him saying "the US slowdown is mainly affecting large buyers and suppliers, so in this regard, small and medium players will have more opportunities". Really? That is just the opposite of what I have been hearing with the smaller players being knocked for six while the larger ones are better able to restructure their supply chains. But what do I know. 

A comment on yesterday's post over on Plaxo's Pulse social networking site asked whether the value of the US$ was also having an impact on this equation. You'd have to say that it is. On that point, David Wei and I appear to agree as he is advising "Chinese exporters to capture business potential in markets such as Japan, India and Russia to offset the impact caused by the weaker US dollar". Quite right.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Are these three things connected?

  1. The BBC says: China's trade surplus unexpectedly fell in February, suggesting the US slowdown is hitting demand for Chinese goods.
  2. Global Sources share price is $11.28, a hair above its 52 week low of $10.61.
  3.'s share price is HK$17.18, again a hair above its all time low of $16.34.

Surely no coincidence.

Mind you, at the same the Hong Kong Trade Development Council is reporting record crowds for its March jewellery show. That event may be less dependent on the US market or non-Asian buyers than others, but it will be worth keeping a very close watch on the upcoming trade fairs to get a clear sense of how the economic downturn is biting. They can be a very efficient barometer.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Leading with online into niches

In the interview I did with Thomas Crampton last week, we talked about how specialist publishers are leading into a number of Asian markets with online strategies. From this they can build into events and, maybe (although not necessarily), print products. It's a topic I've talked about before here.

Tom's latest posting picks up on the same theme in an interview with Justin Randles, the founding publisher of the very impressive Marketing title. He has taken almost the flip opposite strategy to the long-established Media magazine based in Hong kong and part of the Haymarket stable. Their online strategy was, for a long time, the nervous halfway house of the established print publisher and they appear as a result to have left a large enough gap open for Randles to establish a credible new competitor.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Google too "clever" for it's own good

I am sitting in Hong Kong. Therefore, I must be Chinese. That appears to be Google's logic as I look at the following screens in their Adsense system. Duhh!

Of course, lots of the people sitting in Hong Kong are Chinese and can read this. But, many are not; it's an international city. Give us a language option boys. I'll be happy to click through your screen once I can read it. Heck this may be the first time I've actually wanted to read one of those terms and conditions screens!!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gentlemen, please adjust your trusses

Not being an engineer, the word truss makes me think more of Victorian undergarments designed to alleviate the worst effects of a hernia than exhibition centres. I stand corrected, however, by this press release from the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre accompanied by one of managing director Cliff Wallace's always-striking photos. It shows the second of the two huge roof beams now in place for the HKCEC's Phase 2.5 extension work now under way.

Together, these trusses apparently weigh more than 3,000 tonnes...hernia inducing stuff. I'll bet they're glad the builders didn't drop them. There's water down below, not to mention a few toes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tarsus in Wuhan

I'll bet you didn't know that Anthony and Cleopatra are supposed to have met in the Turkish city of Tarsus. Wikipedia is a wonderful thing, isn't it.

Well, that's apropos of nothing other than my interest in Tarsus plc and its latest announcement. The company has invested Rmb12 million (US$1.688 million...and rising) for 50% of a company called Hubei Hope Exhibitions based in Wuhan. The press release speaks of 27 fairs, 50,000 square metres, seven offices and 150 employees.

This fits very nicely with two things we've been talking about recently:

  1. The growing importance of China's regions in the development of B2B in Asia. Remember, Hubei alone has 60 million people - more than all but a few countries in the rest of Asia. We discussed this in a panel at the recent UFI Open Seminar in Asia and everybody was talking about their focus on moving out to the regions.
  2. Recent postings on this blog about the focus of business in China moving away from the three big cities.
For those of you who may feel the need of a little help on placing China's provinces on a map, I'm uploading a map with all the provinces marked. Hands up who knew before exactly where the Ningxia Autonomous Region is.

Monday, March 03, 2008


UBM's David Levin tells Reuters (of the RBI magazine portfolio): "We have a strategy built around integrated media so to pick up a block of orphaned print assets is not consistent with what we want to do."

Xinhua vs. the WTO

We have written intermittently about Xinhua's ongoing efforts to maintain monopoly rights in China in the distribution of financial information. When we last wrote about this almost a year ago, I wondered "My recollection is that last year this reached the level of a minor diplomatic spat. I wonder if this solves or it raises the issues all over again?" There are links in that piece will lead you back through the saga if you're interested.

Well, it's obviously not dead. Today's Financial Times reports that "The European Union and US are to launch formal proceedings at the World Trade Organisation over China’s attempt to put the financial information businesses of international news providers under the control of the local rival and regulator, Xinhua news agency". It goes on to note (the highlights are mine) "The move reflects confid­ence in Brussels and Washington that Beijing will find it hard to defend the rules, which prompted fierce complaints when announced and which Xinhua has so far refrained from enforcing against agencies including Reuters, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. The EU and US believe the regulations breach Beijing’s commitment to allowing foreign companies to supply financial information services in China under the terms of its 2001 accession to the WTO".

If Xinhua has indeed refrained from enforcing these rules, why all the fuss now. Surely not a need a in Brussels and Washington to flex their biceps and show how tough they are with China...on what is practically at the moment a non-issue.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Alibaba takes us a step closer to real m-commerce

There's a very interesting post at the China Web 2.0 Review (they often are!). Alibaba's Taobao has launched a WAP version with a limited feature set at Interesting enough as a way to expand its reach to those 500+ million mobile phone users, many of whom do not have easy Internet access of their own.

More interesting still is the way in which the sit is served by a mobile interface for Alipay. As Luyi Chen points out in his post, payment for most m-commerce in China so far has been processed by the mobile service providers as part of the consumers' bill. I'd assume that China Mobile won't be too tickled by Alibaba's move to skirt around that with its m-Alipay service. But, however, big and powerful they are, its hard to imagine they can stop it in the long term.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

CMP fades away in the US

I have to say that David Levin, United Business Media's CEO, continues to rise in my estimation. Not only is he a mini-rugby coach, but he caught the entire US media watching industry on the hop yesterday when announcing the restructuring of CMP Media there.

There had been some breathless anticipation of the announcement of a new CEO, following Steve Weitzner's departure to Ziff. Nobody had anticipated the break-up of the business into four units, each with a CEO reporting directly to Levin and the dropping of the CMP the US at least. Although the CMP name originated in the Manhasset, LI business acquired by United back in 1999, it will now only live on in the UK with CMP Information and at CMP Asia. I gather there are no plans for now to drop it in the rest of the world.

United also reported solid numbers yesterday. That's good for me. As a former employee, I retain a very small shareholding in the company. The market liked the results and bucked an ugly day in London (the FTSE was down 1.36%) with a 1.13% increase.

UBM says that "CMP Asia delivered another strong performance in 2007 with underlying revenue up 10.7% and underlying operating profits up 11.4%". I'm not sure how currencies are treated in the mystery calculation which is "underlying revenue" but, given that most of CMP Asia's business is basically linked to US dollars and that UBM reports in sterling, it looks as though they've done pretty well.

Update: Some don't like him though. The US bits of UBM (formerly Miller Freeman) have never really felt comfortable with their British CEOs. This Media Wire Daily piece is especially snitty, asking "Is David Levin the cancer that slowly be killing CMP?". The writer concludes "We think we're going to launch a "Fire David Levin" or a "David Levin is bad for B2B" campaign". Ho, Ho. Just graduated from the student newspaper did we? How very amusing.

The first comment puts this genius in his place: "That's an irresponsible headline, If it were me, I'd sue for libel. Also, as somebody with a ground-level view at UBM, I'd say you really haven't done much homework".