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.