Thursday, June 28, 2007

Miss or Mr. 2007?

Our good friends at appear to have got themselves into the beauty contest business. That or the democracy business, but that may be altogether too controversial. We have been invited to vote in their Top 20 e-Businessmen of the year public voting. You have to be registered user to participate but, like most good things on Alibaba, that's free.

Now, they're down to the last 20. If you click on the picture of one of the lucky candidates, you'll see a description of why you think you should vote for them. Keith Lau (picture here) of Lucky Technology Ltd. is currently way out in front with 173 votes.

Take a look at the rest of them and see who you think is most deserving...

The perils of Chinese press conferences

Anybody who has ever done business in China will know that the world of press conferences there is fraught with complications: from the wide-eyed amazement of western executives when told by their Chinese PR people that they have to bribe journalists to come (envelopes of 'taxi money' are routinely inserted into press packs and many will not write stories if they are forgotten) to the potential for miscommunication.

Several people (including Fons Tuinstra here) report on Business Week's story about the MySpace China press conference snafu which is worth passing on. The article more generally reports on MySpace's 'slow start' in China. In particular, it notes "Luo Chuan, chief executive of MySpace China, told reporters in Shanghai that the new Chinese version of News Corp.'s popular social-networking site aims to launch an instant messaging (IM) service "as soon as possible." Local scribes took him at his word. The Chinese media began reporting that MySpace China was calling its new IM product "ASAP." MySpace China quickly issued a clarification explaining that the company had not actually decided on a name yet and cited a communication failure for the mistake".

Bunnies hop into Macau

OK. It's a bit of a stretch to suggest that Christie Hefner's decision to locate a Playboy Mansion in Macau's new Studio City development will make a serious difference to the business media world. It does, though, indicate the weight of international corporate interest in the entertainment and events world lining up behind the new, Vegas-inspired vision of Macau.

The Destination Macau piece quotes Christie as saying ""Judge me by the company I keep. Macao Studio City brings together many talented people and elements. This is a collaboration among the top hotel companies, top entertainment, top retail and top real estate. We all bring together what we see as the vision of the future Maacu – beyond just casinos".

That captures the two key points of what is happening there now:

  1. Multiple international brands investing in one small place = fireworks for the events industry.
  2. It's "beyond just casinos".
That's certainly what those who are actively promoting Macau events hope. I note, for example, that Macau featured in United Business Media's pre-close statement yesterday. Investment in new markets such as Macau was quoted as one of the reasons we should look out for slightly disappointing profits from CMP Asia, it said. "CMP Asia is investing to expand its presence in India, Macau, mainland China and in building an online presence to complement its event portfolio. These necessary costs are a drag on short term earnings".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baidu gets serious about Japan

Forget all the stuff about Europe. We think that Baidu's decision to appoint former Sony CEO Nobuyuki Idei to its board gives a better indication of where its interests truly lie: Japan.

Reuters reports "We are confident that he will make a significant contribution towards Baidu's efforts to extend our leadership in Chinese language Internet search and to develop our search platform in Japan," Baidu CEO Robin Li said in a statement.

Idei is still chairman of the advisory board at Sony Corp. and serves on the Boards of Accenture and publisher Red Herring. We assume that Sony's less-than-stellar performance during his tenure shouldn't be taken as an omen for Baidu.

We also assume that Idei, who turns 70 in November, will not be asked to join Shawn Wang's conga line.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Time to sell?

China Venture News reports a meeting which recalls the China internet investment that mad, mad Blodget/Meeker world of 2000 and dotcom bubble 1.0. At the 2nd China International New Media Forum, Morgan Stanley's Richard Ji apparently told delegates that "China's Internet market is on the verge of entering a 'best investment' period".

My sense is that, once the money men start making those calls, they have either already made all the upside they believe they can hope to and are looking to sell or have become caught up in the irrational exuberance of that heady brew of China and Internet mixed in equally intoxicating parts. The post quotes Ji as saying "Cable TV and Internet are the coming gold mines for the Chinese market and the media carriers have to strengthen the content and expand distribution channels to improve profit."

It goes on to note that "Paid Internet searching increased profits by 60%" last year.

Caveat emptor.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Maybe not ooops...

I posted on Friday about the possible challenge to Business Media China's 'new' outdoor advertising activity from Beijing's clampdown on the business. One e-mail comment-er suggests that I may have got it the wrong way round. "I do not think that this will affect bmc – activities", he says, "because they are focused on airports and train stations, not at all on billboards in the streets. Maybe this would be even positive because it reduces the overall number of billboards in the country".

Sounds like a fair point and I pass it on for your consideration. It does mean, though, that BMC is less likely to focus too much on the smaller B2B opportunities as it grapples with the enormous potential of its railway/airport advertising business.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tarsus busy in Asia

Douglas Emslie and his colleagues have been busy with two Asia announcements in one week from Tarsus, the UK-based exhibitions group. First, we heard earlier in the week that they're hooking up with Montgomery in India. Although details in the press release were a bit thin, they've made "a significant investment" and acquired a shareholding in Montgomery India Ltd.

Today, there's another Tarsus press release in my e-mail (not on the web site yet although you can download it here). This time the focus is China and an "an extension of its strategic partnership with Shanghai Modern International Exhibition Company". The press release says "This strengthened partnership will focus on growing existing events and the launch of new products targeting the automotive, promotional merchandize, printing, packaging, advertising & sign making industries. Following a successful first year of cooperation, significant new business opportunities are predicted for both parties with increased levels of international and local participation across the portfolio".

This seems to mark a significant break-out from the key industries on which Tarsus has been focusing and certainly gives clear sign to the Tarsus shareholders including Blenheim Exhibitions founder Neville Buch.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Some of you may have been following with interest the fortunes of Frankfurt-listed Business Media China. Having fiddled around with a variety of unrelated exhibition acquisitions, the company had decided that it would focus development on outdoor with a very interesting sounding series of deals for railway station and airport advertising.

Tim Johnson's China Rising Blog is frequently good reading although it rarely touches directly on our B2B sector. On this occasion, however, his post today set us thinking. From this, we gather that there has been a massive clampdown in Beijing at least on outdoor advertising. He quotes the China Times saying:

“The Beijing Municipal government is undertaking a campaign to clear out all the outdoor billboards on the city's main roads, dismantling those already set up by private companies. The work was started last year, when companies were asked to dismantle illegal billboards themselves. Since this April, employees of the city's administration started to tear down the remaining ones by force. It took them a whole week to dismantle an 86-meter-long, seven-meter-high billboard on the Third Ring Road, the biggest one in Beijing.”

Johnson believes that the Communist Party has had enough of outdoor advertising - at least in Beijing. Oh dear!

Infomedia and mobile search

India's Infomedia becomes the first business media company in Asia of which I'm aware to take a serious position in mobile search. Regular readers will know I've banging on about this for a while but watching in vain for companies to start to take advantage of the obvious business opportunity offered by the approaching 600 million mobile phones in China and India. reports that Infomedia will be one of the providers of mobile search for Nokia's new service. It notes that "the same local content is being distributed across several partners - STAR, for the mobile application PLUS; Guruji, which is a local search engine with a mobile service that hasn’t yet been launched". So, maybe it's finally coming and it's coming through search.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shawn Wang teases more reporters

It seems that Baidu CFO Shawn Wang has is rapidly becoming one of the China media scene's more titillating interviews. We reported earlier today on his "no foreign acquisitions" statement on the BBC. Does this mean "yes, domestic acquisitions"?

Now, I see on China Tech Stories that "he told Xiaoxiang Morning News reporter Li Wei that Baidu is ready to move into the online e-commerce area". The report goes on to say "New e-commerce initiatives serving internet users and small and medium companies, such as online payment system, will be the next goldmine for Baidu's future growth". That would seem to take it right into the Alibaba/Alipay domain. What is this, a little pre-AliIPO needle?

The piece notes that Baidu already has partnerships with Industrial and Commerce Bank of China and eBay's Paypal while it recently hired Haoyu Sheng, currently vice-president in charge of personal card business for American Express.

The picture attached here is from Shawn Wang's official Baidu bio and it's titled there "Shawn's mischievous side". Just what we're all looking for in the CFOs of our listed companies. That's him in the red, leading a conga line of reporters in a merry dance it seems.

China-focused blogs get more targeted

Back from Spain. Good to catch up with many friends at the UFI meeting in Bilbao.

Working my way now through a lot of e-mails and news updates. That's made harder by the failure of yet another cheap and nasty Dell power block for my nasty (and not so cheap) Dell laptop. Don't buy 'em.

I was interested to see more and more targeted and specific blogs in English about Chinese media. The latest that jumped to my attention is ChinaSearchAds. Of course, all the Baidu-buzz does make this an interesting place to focus.

The Baidu news which caught my attention this morning - and that of the ChinaSearchAds blogger - was the BBC story reporting that Baidu would be keeping its chequebook well hidden and would not be fuelling international expansion through acquisitions. The article quotes CFO Shawn Wang saying "Buying rivals would dilute our rate of growth and create a loss of focus. I do not believe we should go out and make acquisitions just because we have acquisition currency."

Mind you, it was a Wang quote which the Daily Torygraph misinterpreted last week to say they would be expanding in Europe. So who knows?

Monday, June 18, 2007

More on the Ali-IPO contd.

The China Daily, via Reuters, quotes today´s South China Morning Post claiming inside knowledge on the proposed IPO. The paper reportedly suggests that it will be a Hong Kong and not a NASDAQ listing and that the company hopes to raise $1 billion. It´s over a month since we last reported an Ali-IPO rumour. We hope the pace picks up a bit.

Top digital cities are in Asia

Super blogger Om Malik directs us to an interesting piece in the Melbourne Age. It ranks the top 10 digital cities in the world and Asia comes out strongly, bagging 6 of the top 10 spots:

1. Seoul

2. Singapore

3. Tokyo

4. Hong Kong

5. Stockholm

6. San Francisco and Silicon Valley

7. Tallinn

8 New York

9. Beijing

10. New Songdo City

The writer notes "Asian cities scored well on broadband speed and availability, mainly because they have concentrated populations in a small land area. Seoul's excellent wireless coverage, along with government programs such as Seoul Digital City, gave the city top billing".

And, if you don't know where New Songdo City is (I didn't), check out their website here. It's a while since I've come across a new development that touts the fact that it is located on the site of a major military encounter but, New Songdo's developers tell us that they are right where Gen. MacArthur lead the famous Incheon landings in 1950.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Busy month for buyers

2007 started off a bit slowly in Asia for acquisitions, but June has been a cracker. The latest case of itchy cheque book syndrome has affected Reed Exhibitions. It's the fifth deal this month by our reckoning with total value a hair under $41 million by our reckoning; these Asian deals are still generally small. Total for the year is 11 deals (roughly half of the full year 2006 total) and $277 million (already over the 2006 total).

Reed has just bought Componex, the Delhi-based electronics show which will be drawn into the Nepcon family of events. No price mentioned, although given some ambitious valuations being touted for a variety of B2B products in India when I was there last month, I'll bet it wasn't cheap.

The sun is out in Santander and it's feeling very summery here.

In Spain

Blogging a little late today as I've been travelling to Spain. There are two meetings here over the next few days.

Today I'm in Santander for the annual meeting of the Spanish exhibition industry association, AFE. I'm speaking at their 6th Congress tomorrow morning, releasing the first results of our annual survey of trade fairs in Asia. The basic message will be: very strong growth, particularly in China, Thailand and Vietnam.

From there, it's on to Bilbao over the weekend. UFI's annual seminar in Europe kicks off there on Monday evening and I have a lot of people to see. Just before that all starts, though, I do intend to get a look in the door at the Gehry-designed Guggenheim.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Telegraph got it wrong

It seems that the poor old Daily Torygraph is out of its depth on China and the Internet. After spreading the improbable rumour that Baidu was about to expand into Europe, the Beijing-based search engine has issued a statement saying, "Recent rumors alleging that is expanding into Europe are groundless."

I'm not sure that slow growth Europe really realises how unappealing a place it looks to businesses in China. It's seen as a nice place to go on holiday and buy luxury brands. They can sell washing machines and socks there. But, it's not seen as the market of the future. Why would Baidu be interested in investing there? There may well be good answers to that, but they're not immediately apparent to many companies in China.

P.S. Very pleased to see that Wikipedia seems to have a full list of our favourite Private Eye slang and re-directs a search for "Torygraph" to the correct page.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Netsun starts to spend

According to our IPO tracking, Zhejiang Netsun is the first B2B media company to list in China. Following its December IPO in Shenzhen, it has been doing pretty well, riding the wave of the China stock market boom/bubble. Its market cap currently stands at $454 million.

Now, its starting to spend that money and move into other verticals with the acquisition of, an apparel industry portal which ranks #16 in our tracking of the top 59 B2B web sites in the region. Netsun's own flagship, ranks at 12.

The acquisition of 51% for Rmb3.35 million looks like a pretty good deal. Keep an eye on Netsun. It might get quite interesting. And, no, that is not a "buy" recommendation from me. I don't know it well enough. We last posted about Netsun here although you'll have to look hard to find the comment buried in the middle of a good rant about sexism in Asian media. Very PC of me!

Monday, June 11, 2007

QQ, bookmarks and Web 2.0

Regular readers will know that I am intrigued by the way that explosive growth of the Internet and mobile in China are opening opportunities for new media which B2B companies in particular have generally been slow to recognise. You will also know that I am particularly intrigued by Tencent's enormously popular QQ instant messaging service. We posted just the other day about its B2B developments.

So, I read with great interest this posting at Mobinode about QQ's role in the social bookmarking business. They point out:

I still believe that if there is anyone can take an easy action to train the Chinese web2.0 market, it must be QQ. QQ’s kingdom is built on over 200million users, which is the fact most of the Chinese startup hate it but have to face it. If QQ want to promote some new services, online or offline, either way could be huge impact on the market. E.g. Tencent’s portal site now is ranked No.10 by Alexa.

An interesting insight was exposed in the piece about QQ's attitude to the rest of the world:

Talked to Richard, the Director of QQ Innovation center, I have been told that the English version of QQ Bookmark is also under development. As a foreigner, you may never use QQ messenger, but most likely in the future, you could be QQ-ed by Tencent’s web2.0 service. Richard said that they would not put too much effort on promoting this service in the oversea market, but they felt they should open the door to the global web2.0 market.

In these ways, China looks more and more like the US. "Hey, rest of the world, you're welcome in, but don't expect us to make too much effort to welcome you: we have enough to keep us amused at home".

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ill-conceived conferences in China

There are a couple of interesting posts from the last two days about problems with specialist IT conferences in China. Fons Tuinstra at China Herald pulls no punches in describing "the fact that those conferences are still organized in a very old-fashioned way". He posted after a piece on ChinaTechNews by Danny Levinson about the low profile Search Engine Strategies China event which, for reasons known only to the organisers, was held in Xiamen.

Danny's view is that the venue choice contributed to low impact. He asks "Why didn't they hold it in Beijing or Shanghai where Asia-Pacific and international visitors don't need to take additional flights to Xiamen or domestic visitors don't need to re-route through other cities? Especially for a new type of conference, it's best to hold it in Beijing or Shanghai. If small overseas conferences don't appreciate this, then they should not waste their money coming in here".

That being said, Fons notes that "also the Red Herring Wireless Beijing 2007 event triggered off very few media reports or web references, even though I know them as pretty good organizers and Beijing for sure should be a better location than Xiamen for a smaller conference".

I wonder if the problem is the very low barrier to entry for new conference launches? Companies tend to regard them as "easy" business. A basic database cobbled together from other peoples' directories, enough money to put down a deposit on a hotel room and do some e-marketing and Robert is your mother's brother. Doing this you can pull off a conference, but it tends to leave nobody satisfied. To do one well is a real challenge....but a worthy one if you can make it work.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Harry Potter and the Bazee judgement

An intriguing story today on about a court case by eBay India against J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter scribe. According to the site, quoting the Indian Express, 'the company... has filed an application with the Delhi High Court, accusing Rowling of “misusing judicial orders by giving an impression as if the court had made scathing remarks condemning the role of the company”'.

CNet talks here about Rowling's complaint back in March. EBay says it caused them "humiliation and harassment".

Education 2.0

We may have passed on the opinion of one blogger earlier in the week that Web 2.0 was dead in China. I was very pleased, though, to see in this week's Economist how Skype and other decidedly Web 2.0-ish features (podcasts, RSS, etc. etc.) are being used to transform language teaching by one Shanghai entrepreneur.

I'm a big fan of Ken Carroll's ChinesePod service and use it to help brush up my Mandarin which has never been good enough to have got rusty. It's certainly making good use of the both the global interest in China and new technologies. Interesting to see that his company, Praxis Language, has also now turned its attention to Spanish.

This isn't a new story and ChinesePod's success has been well-reported. It's good, though, to see it hitting mainstream media and to hear that they now employ 35 people. Good for them!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

XFML comes out fighting

I really do like this company. What better response to attacks on them in New York than getting on with the business and making a good, solid acquisition in China. I particularly like the fact that it is focused on mobile which those of you have been following this blog for a while will know is a minor obsession of mine (click on the "mobile" tag at the bottom of the story to see what we've posted recently).

I'm quite convinced that mobile will be a massive B2B medium in Asia and have been waiting to see which companies pick up the challenge. It's really no surprise to see Fredy Bush and the Xinhua Finance team leading the pack on this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Web 2.0 is dead in China

...and long live Web 2.0 Mobile. That appears to be the basic message of a provocative post at Mobinode. Citing Alibaba, Taobao and ChinaChemNet as money spinners which are, at best, Web 1.5, the blog asks "The users can give you the contents, but can they bring you the money?". They obviously think that the answer is no.

This is their parting thoughts for today on the matter:

The users love the web2.0, but the Web2.0 have to live on the money. Well, it is not the issue only annoying the Chinese web2.0 startups, it has been discussed globally for a while. Of course I dont know the perfect solution, but I have a suggestion which I think it might work in China: Bring your Web2.0 to the Chinese Mobile market which is even bigger and more mature.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Google vs. Baidu goes global

Two interesting pieces today suggesting that neither Google nor Baidu think the search engine heavyweight championship is anywhere near over either in China or the rest of the world.

China Tech Stories writes that Google is stepping up the pace in China. It notes "The system is gaining significant traction with it's personalized selection of dictionary and many users reported getting good relevancy in results. Perhaps learned from Baidu, Google acquired a small web navigation site, which is more like a web directory".

Meanwhile, London's Daily Telegraph reports that "Baidu bowls Google a fastball". We would have to assume the management of neither US-based Google or Beijing-based Baidu will recognise or appreciate the cricketing analogies although fastball is actually more of a baseball term. Check here for Wikipedia's learned explanation of the Googly....unless you're in mainland China of course where Wikipedia remains blocked and you will have to continue to wonder what it's all about.

The key point of the Telegraph story is that Baidu, having already set about the process of conquering Japan, is now turning its sights on Europe. "Chief financial officer Shawn Wang is expected to outline the group's expansion plans in London later this month", the article says. I wonder if this has any connection to the fake Baidu Europe site on which we reported back in February?

The article rather improbably continues with the suggestion that Alibaba is also considering a move to the UK. The sun never sets over the gin drinkers of the Telegraph's least in their imaginations as they settle into those leather club armchairs.

Thoughts on Macau

I was over in Macau on Saturday to assist in judging the final assessment of a training programme for lecturers who will be training the next generation of MICE industry specialists in the booming SAR. This focus from tiny Macau's government - there are only 500,000 people there - is another little indication of just how serious they are about launching themselves onto the world's business events stage.

The meeting was in a training institute on Taipa Island over which now looms the vast bulk of the almost completed Venetian. The scale of the vision is becoming clear for all to see.

Although the Hong Kong property market has been doing pretty well of late, the massive expansion of business in Macau has meant that the market has been taking off like a rocket over several years. It was no surprise then to see as I was poking around on the web this morning that the exhibition people from Munich have moved their ExpoReal Asia event from Shanghai to Macau. It seems to me the type of show that will be well-suited to the Venetian and that the deep-pocketed investors from the rest of China will be even happier to come to Macau than they are to be in Shanghai.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Cramer picks Global Sources again

It will be interesting to see how Global Sources stock runs on Friday. reports that in his "Mad Money Lightining Round" on Thursday evening, Jim Cramer said "I have liked this one. It's a terrific, terrific play on the back portion of the Internet and commerce".

We reported back in mid-December on the tremendous jump in GSOL's price when Cramer mentioned the company on his CNBC show.

Xinhua Finance sells bureaux to Thomson

Xinhua Finance Realigns News Business Strategy on the Greater China Market

This cryptically headlined PR Newswire piece reports that Xinhua Finance is selling seven XFN Asia- Pacific bureaus located in Tokyo, Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Sydney and Seoul to Thomson Financial.

It's linked to other announcements regarding share buybacks, reported in Forbes and another PR Newswire press release about accelerated corporate governance measures.