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.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Global Sources posts strong Q1

It looks as though the first quarter has been strong for Global Sources. Highlights of the just-released Q1 numbers:

  • Revenue was $40.6 million, up 16% from $34.9 million.
    ∗ Online revenue was $21.9 million, up 27% from $17.3 million.
    ∗ Exhibitions revenue was $6.0 million, up 24% from $4.8 million.
    ∗ Print revenue was $11.6 million, down 1% from $11.8 million.
    ∗ Revenue from mainland China was $24.1 million, up 30% from $18.4 million.
  • GAAP net income was $8.2 million vs. $6.5 million in 2007, up 26.1%
CFO Eddie Heng said "For the rest of 2008, we expect online and trade shows to continue to serve as the main growth drivers, and we anticipate revenue from China to continue growing faster than overall revenue. We also expect a positive impact from expanding sales representation for all of our products.”

Q2 revenue guidance has been increased to US$62 - 63 million.

Mobile on my mind

As regular readers will know, I have flushes of enthusiasm for mobile and what it might mean for B2B media and information in Asia. With 650+ million phones in China and India alone and over 3 billion around the world, it remains an under-utilised platform.

Yesterday, I attended a lunch organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong where a panel talked about mobile advertising. Marketing covers it here. A key focus of the three panelists was that, in order to be effective, advertisers should make use of the capacity to target messages. This is, in my view, central to any value which can be developed for the B2B markets where targeting is everything.

They were perhaps not quite as defensive as they should have been about the damage already done to the medium by blanket SMS spam campaigns although some questions from the floor were pretty pointed in bringing this up.

This is obviously all taking off in India as well as I came across three interesting pieces on this just yesterday:

  1. does a round-up of mobile advertising channels already active in India. Some of them sound pretty intrusive and unappealing to me, but there's clearly good mileage in others.
  2. Linking Hong Kong and India, reports on Buongiorno's launch of its mobile advertising solution into that market. Buongiorno is a Hong Kong-based value-added service provider focusing on mobile marketing solutions in which Japanese trading giant Mitsui is an investor. Unfortunately, their web site appears to have keeled over this morning amid all the excitement of expanding in the Indian market.
  3. Getting closer to my interest in market-specific, B2B applications is the announcement that "People Group’s real estate property,, has launched an SMS based mobile application, developed by sister concern, Mauj Mobile". Interestingly, the product eschews GPRS/3G mobile internet functions and is entirely SMS based.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Earthquake - what's going on and how to contribute

Congratulations to my friends at Alibaba for a homepage banner which links to this page. It's the clearest I've seen, telling you what's going on, how to donate and with latest news updates.

The series of pictures of the wedding party immediately after the quake don't have the immediate impact of the dead children and weeping parents, but are very striking all the same.

A sad note, by the way, from yesterday's Aliblog entry: the company has 33 team members in Wenchuan who have not yet been accounted for.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

An eye on the numbers in India

There's a really interesting little piece over at which gives a good feel for the current size of the B2B online market in India. It's based on an article in Outlook Business magazine. Highlights include:

  • Total B2B transactions in India this year will likely hit the equivalent of US$100 billion.
  • B2B online marketplaces could account for $15 - 20 billion of that.
  • There is no source for these numbers which first emerged in an Economic Times article.
  • claims revenues of Rs38 crores (roughly US$10 million) and that they have been growing at 50% a year since 2003. It claims 500,000 buyer enquiries a month.
  • Rival claims 700,000 registered buyers and, although revenue numbers are not given, says they have grown at at 35% a year and will double this year.
  • Other web sites quoted in the Outlook piece include Matexnet and Auction India. I wasn't familar with either of those.
The Outlook Business piece concludes 'Tradeindia’s aggressive expansion plans this year may well have something to do with Alibaba’s entry. "Competition is good, it keeps you on your toes," says CEO Bikky Khosla'.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More on earthquake support

Thanks also to Michael Duck of CMP Asia for responding to my request for more information on what our industry's doing in response to the earthquake victims in Sichuan. He says:

  • CMP SinoExpo (in China)have donated RMB 100,000 to the Red Cross
  • CMP Asia have donated US$15,000 to Medecins Sans Frontiers
  • CMP Asia are donating a sum to be finalised from Staff and matched $ for $ by the company to Oxfam
  • United Business Media are donating directly to the Red Cross.
Good for them.

What though I ask about Burma? What an awful mess that is and it's beginning to disappear from view. I guess virtually nobody in our industry has people or business there and, probably more to the point, very few trust the generals to point aid received in the country in the right direction. Thanks to one correspondent for pointing me to this release updating us on Medicin Sans Frontiers' view of the situation.

Update: the Marketing magazine web site also has an update on the way the advertising and sports industry is responding to the Sichuan earthquake. It points out that, "according to the Shanghai Daily, domestic and oversea donations have totaled RMB$9 billion".

The future of media in Asia

All that and lunch too. What more could you ask for?

My good friend Thomas Crampton has organised a lunch on 4th June at which some of the gurus of the industries will gaze into their freshly-polished crystal balls. Tom says those participating will include:

  • Torie Henderson – Hong Kong-based Managing Director of OMD International, who will speak about Asia’s latest advertising trends, developments and innovations.
  • Hiroko Hoshino – Tokyo-based Regional Online Director & FT Corporate Representative in Japan, who oversees advertising sales and online business across Asia.
  • Felix Soh – Singapore-based Director of the Straits Times’ RazorTV will give the first public demonstration of paper’s soon-to-be-launched live interactive Internet TV.

I think I'm going to be in Beijing and so not able to attend. Boooo!

The event is co-sponsored by The Society of Publishers in Asia, the Asia Digital Marketing Association and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. It's timed to coincide with SOPA's annual awards for editorial excellence dinner.

I expect to see all of those of you who attend both the lunch and dinner in the FCC gym the next morning!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Global Sources and guaranteed date disasters

I have to admit that I was as surprised as the next man to see this article pop up in a site tracking Global Sources for me. I don't regularly follow the Gizmodo gadget site but it is quite fun. This piece advises nerds on what in their collections may be keeping them single.

And the Global Sources connection? One of their clients its seems makes what are described as "Creepy binoculars that make you seem like a pedophile are a definite no-no. So steer clear of these plushes with built-in binoculars. [Global Sources via Link]".

Still, as least they weren't the source of the Turd Twister. Modesty prevents further explanation. You'll have to read the piece. I can certainly see that they would be off-putting.

Solitaire is not alone

Bhupesh Trivedi's Indian Media Observer is well worth tracking if you want to keep up with the many things happening in that market. Today, we read with interest that the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (the organiser, amongst other things of India's largest jewellery show), has outsourced production of its house magazine to Spenta Publishing. The magazine is called Solitaire International.

That set me thinking. Surely I'd heard the name before. I follow the jewellery industry media for a couple of clients. Yes, there is already a Solitaire magazine in Asia. It's published by Solitaire Media who have an interesting array of glossy titles around SE Asia.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

China and Japan coming together

Before the earthquake, the big China story was President Hu Jintao's visit to Japan which included a visit from the Emperor and various other bridge-building exercises. For those doing scenario planning, the possibility of lowering the risk of China/Japan conflict is a very welcome one.

It's interesting to see more and more of the China-based Internet companies extending their reach into Japan. For example, Baidu reported a week or so ago that its Japanese traffic hit 713,000 person times in February. I suspect that's relatively small beer compared to market leader Yahoo! Japan but they obviously feel they're making sufficient headway to broadcast it.

We noted last week the brief announcement of Alibaba's Japanese tie-up with Softbank. There's more on this today with a detailed Reuters report from 14th May. The two companies will invest $20 million in Japan which will "the new firm will take over the operation of's existing Japanese language site" according to the report. Softbank is a long-term investor in Alibaba and still owns 30% of the Group.

Now, we also see that Xinhua Finance is getting in on the act. It is, of course, listed in Tokyo on the oddly-named "Mothers" exchange but is primarily focused on China business. Now, it is linking up with Microsoft "with the launch of a feature section on the financial portal MSN Money under MSN Japan ( ) to fulfill Japanese investors' keen interest in China intensified by the momentum heading to the Beijing Olympics this summer".

Who's next?

Friday, May 16, 2008

More on the earthquake

Thanks to S.Y. Hui at Global Sources for responding to my request in yesterday's piece for more information on what our industry's doing for the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake. The company announced on Wednesday that it and its team members would donate up to Rmb1 million to appeal. "The company will donate RMB 500,000 to relief agencies working in the region. In addition, it will match contributions from team members of up to RMB 250,000, for a total donation of up to RMB 1,000,000", it said.

Chairman and CEO, Merle Hinrichs is quoted as saying “With over two-thirds of our team members living and working in mainland China, this tragedy hits close to home for our team members in China and around the world".

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Industry responds to earthquake tragedy

The whole world has been shocked by the catastrophic loss of life and damage in south-west China following the Sichuan earthquake. As always on these occasions, people are left wondering how they can help.

We've noticed a couple of initiatives from within our own industry today:

  1. Alibaba is donating US$300,000. The company is also promoting relief efforts through links on its web sites and allowing people to donate through Alipay.
  2. The Hong Kong exhibition industry association HKECIA has launched an appeal in a letter from its chairman Stanley Chu to all our members for your support and donations for those in need and suffering from the aftermath of this powerful earthquake".

There are probably others of which we're not aware. Let us know and we'll be happy to promote the links here as well so that people know where and how to donate.

The China Daily, from where this striking photo comes, has launched its own appeal together with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation.

Update: Web Wednesday's Napoleon Biggs has posted a little more on this. I'm going to try to get the banner to work on this site.

Update update: A very thorough review of 24 different ways to support the relief efforts over here at CN Reviews.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Back to the bFuture

I think that Seeking Alpha's bracketing of eFuture's new bFuture SaaS website with Alibaba is pushing things a bit. They are playing in different leagues. However, it's interesting all the same. eFuture's press release describes the project as a site "to connect retailers to their suppliers, enabling them to more efficiently and effectively share information and manage work processes".

Leaving split infinitives on one side, the company also announced that "Beijing Wangfujing Department Store (Group) Co. Ltd. , one of China's largest retail chains, has become the first client to adopt its bFuture online supply chain management platform". Seeking Alpha notes "Wangfujing Group has nearly 20,000 suppliers and all of them have come on as users".

My back to the bFuture heading hear refers to the fact that this sounds an awful lot like the sort of supply chain revolutions we heard about during the dotcom 1.0 era in the late 1990s. There's nothing to say that it won't work in China now and we'll keep a close watch on this one.

eFuture notes that it acquired 51% of Beijing bFuture Information Technology, Inc. back in November last year. It already ran the site which Seeking Alpha describes as "popular" despite, based on our checking, a rather lowly ranking. The Chinese name for that page is 中国网库 全球领先的零售服务前端的B2B电子商务平台. My trusty Babel Fish translator page comes up with "Front end Chinese net storehouse whole world leading retail sales service B2B electronic commerce platform" for that. Not the snappiest title, but I think you can get the picture.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is this the Ali-PC?

"It'll have to be orange" suggested one of my irreverent colleagues....which spurred me into a search for a PC in those very colours. Look what I found.

All this encouraged by the story this morning that our friends at Alibaba are linking up with Intel to "launch a kind of special computer to meet the e-commerce demand of small and medium enterprises in China". The Marbridge Daily wins the prize for wittiest headline to date by suggesting that the new Ali-puter will be branded "B2B Inside".

It will be interesting to see how this can be integrated with the Alisoft e-commerce platform and other software services being developed by Alibaba. The articles suggest that the new computer will be launched later this year through a tie-up with an, as yet un-named PC manufacturer.

Monday, May 12, 2008 of special significance to Asia

When Tom Gorman and I talked at the SOPA function last week, one topic that we skated past pretty quickly was the way in which online can provide opportunities to launch into markets which may be too challenging for print. I was interested, then to see the interview with FT CEO John Ridding in Condé Nast's It's a wide-ranging piece that talks about the FT's apparently maverick strategy and his efforts to ignore Murdoch. Good man...

If memory serves correctly, Ridding was closely involved in the launch of the FT's Hong Kong-based Asia edition. He says that's doing pretty well but focuses on's contribution to the business in Asia:

"...we think is crucial for Asia because the nature of the market is there's a large number of medium-sized economies spread over quite a large geography, so the physical cost of distributing newspapers is a challenge. That's where comes into its own because that is a great way of building our audience and extending our reach. So we're investing significantly in as a global proposition, but we think it's going to be particularly helpful for our mission in Asia".
He also notes the 1 millionth Chinese reader on which we reported in early April.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Virtually nothing going on in China

I have spoken to a few people since I posted last Sunday in a less than complimentary way about that loser's haven Second Life. The response has surprised me in its consistency and basically revolves around either "I thought that was all over" or a complete lack of enthusiasm. And, most of the people I talked to were not as old as me. So, this isn't just the old f***s not 'getting it'.

Business Week, however, appears to be eager to flog the dead horse and, as part of a package on virtual worlds, has a piece on China which suggests that the trend is far from over, but still work in progress. The piece is titled "Not Much Life in China's Virtual Worlds" and suggests that this is because "Chinese entrepreneurs' answers to Second Life are early stage". The corporate suits are, apparently, optimistic and see all sorts of opportunities for brand-building, training, and e-commerce.

I was pointed to this by Tangos on China Web 2.0 Review who has a good round-up of the state-of-play of China's virtual worlds world.

Friday, May 09, 2008

CMP "robust" in Asia but soft in Japan

United Business Media has released a trading statement in which it says that "Preliminary results announcement in February have continued over the last two months, with the positive start to the year continuing to be reflected in an overall trading performance which is modestly ahead of our expectations". It says "we remain confident of the prospects for the full year".

Here in Asia, at CMP, the performance is described as "robust". That sounds awfully tough and manly. So, well done Jimé, Michael and Chris. There is a bit of an alert about Japan though, as the report says "CMP Asia’s events in China are performing strongly. However we are seeing a slowdown in parts of our Japanese business." The sub-continent obviously remains a key focus as the Asia paragraph concludes "We continue to invest in developing our digital platforms and in extending our customer reach through geographic and product expansion, particularly in India".

Challenging opportunities in China

I had a really interesting start to my day today, participating in a panel discussion hosted by the revitalised Society of Publishers in Asia (which, by the way, we just joined). I was lucky enough to be on the stage as the junior partner of Tom Gorman (pictured), the publisher of Fortune China and guru of China publishing with 35 years under his belt.

The discussion, ably moderated by the Wall Street Journal's Geoff Fowler, focused on challenges and opportunities for publishers in China. A few key take-aways:

  • Expect to work within the current regulatory environment for a while (and try to work out how to make money as things are);
  • There are plenty of opportunities in China. They're just not always easy to grasp and the market is now very competitive: Tom commented that, when his magazine launched a decade ago, he was third in the market. There are now 100 competing titles.
  • Print publishers are being somewhat shielded from the harsh realities of digital convergence by continued strong advertising growth. Unlike their counterparts in N. America and Europe, they are not being forced into taking some of the tough decisions. But, that doesn't mean that the trend is not happening in China.
  • Mobile may be the truly big publishing opportunity in China. Regular readers of this blog will not need any tips on who might have said that! I noted that I'm far from alone in watching this trend and that IDG, so often a leader in the business/specialist media category, is focusing on the "third screen".

Thursday, May 08, 2008

E-commerce JVs abound

Somewhat hidden amid the excitement surrounding Alibaba's Q1 results was an announcement that the company has agreed with Softbank (a major shareholder since the early days) to establish a joint venture in Japan. Details are a bit scarce at this stage, but the reports suggest that ownership will be split 65:35 in Softbank's favour while another piece says that the venture will target Japanese SMEs. It seems this was all rumoured back in November.

Meanwhile, we picked up in Seeking Alpha's weekly tech summary a note about a collaboration between U.S.-based CyberSource Corporation (NASDAQ: CYBS) and China-based PayEase Technology Ltd. The press release is here and CyberSource says "technical and logistical issues pose significant challenges for merchants wanting to enter the China eCommerce market. CyberSource Corporation and PayEase Technology Ltd. are collaborating to remove these barriers and facilitate merchants' entry into the China market".

PayEase CEO Fred Sum (pictured) is quoted as saying "
Electronic payment in China is an underserved market with great potential".

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

FIPP heading to Tokyo for digital pow-wow

The conferences organised by the International Federation of Periodical Publishers, FIPP, that I've attended have been really good. In fact, I've just signed up to attend their biennial B2B meeting which will be in New York in September this year.

They have organised a couple of sessions in Germany on digital media which sounded really interesting, but I hadn't been able to justify the trek to Berlin, more's the pity.

So, I was really pleased to see today that they're organising the First Asia-Pacific Digital Magazine Media Conference in Tokyo in mid-November. I have to be in Istanbul at the time for the annual UFI Congress, but BSG will definitely be heading to Japan for this one.

TechTarget and GMI include Asia in new online IT panels

TechTarget has for quite a while been amongst the most interesting of B2B media companies emerging in the US. Where it leads, others around the world will sooner or later follow. Or so it seems to us.

Thanks to my friends at Outsell for pointing me towards the interesting news that TechTarget has joined forces with Global Market Insite (sic). They will be jointly developing enhanced online IT panels which, they say will "enable market researchers to gain virtually instant insights into the buying trends and decision-making process for purchases [of IT goodes and services] from a wide range of respondents' perspectives".

From the get-go, this is a genuinely global initiative with capabilities in "the USA, the UK, China, Japan, India, France, Germany and more", the companies say.

Many B2B media firms play lip service to value-added service, consultancy and research. It is, in our view, typical of the approach that TechTarget has been taking that they have been able to put some meat on the bones of the idea.

Outsell's take on this: "The time for B2B panels has come of age with new announcements from B2B media companies partnering with online panel management firms. Some of the major online firms including GMI, Toluna and Greenfield Online have all announced partnerships in the B2B space. We expect to see continued activity with B2B media properties partnering with online panel companies to help build very specific B2B online panels in relevant vertical markets".

At BSG, we will watch with great interest to see how this plays out in Asia.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Alibaba's net income doubles

Thanks to my colleague Mark for this quick update. It looks like a very
strong set of numbers from Alibaba:

I have not read the whole thing yet, but net income more than doubled
excluding the one time gain from over-subscriptions of the IPO. That is
quite impressive!

First Quarter 2008 Highlights:

  • Total revenue increased to RMB680.1 million, an increase of
    53.2% year-on-year and 7.2% quarter-on-quarter.
  • Gross profit was RMB601.2 million, an increase of 55.5%
    year-on-year and 8.6% quarter-on-quarter.
  • Operating profit was RMB311.9 million, an increase of 81.0%
    year-on-year and 67.1% quarter-on-quarter.
  • Operating profit margin increased to 45.9% from 38.8% in
    the first quarter of 2007 and 29.4% in the fourth quarter of 2007.
  • Net income (Profit attributable to equity owners) was
    RMB300.7 million, an increase of 111.7% year-on-year and 162.0%
    quarter-on-quarter, excluding the one-off interest income we received from
    oversubscriptions during our IPO in the fourth quarter of 2007.
  • Earnings per share, basic and diluted ("EPS") was 6.47 Hong
    Kong cents, an increase of 118.6% year-on-year and 160.9%
    quarter-on-quarter, excluding the above mentioned one-off interest income in
    the fourth quarter of 2007.

Bloomberg story:

Dominating the verticals

An under-reported - in our opinion - operator in the online China B2B world is that other Hangzhou-based listed company, Netsun. They have always taken a completely different approach to their big brothers down the road at Alibaba and focused on dominating vertical market positions. Their Chemnet is an impressive market leader in the chemicals world.

They have also been building up a position in the textiles and garment industries. So, we note with interest another acquisition they have made of for Rmb 18 million. The key assets of this business are Texindex and 51Fashion amongst others. My colleagues tell me that this now gives Netsun 'full house' of the top 5 vertical garment/fashion B2B sites in China. Texindex and 51Fashion were the biggest competitors to Texnet which Netsun already owns. It also acquired in June last year.

The market quite likes them: market cap for the Shenzhen-listed stock today is Rmb3.38 billion (a VERY lucky number in Cantonese numerology) at the close play today with a p.e. just over 80 (more expensive than Alibaba).

All this is being run through the 'front page' which is setting itself up to compete with the top flight of China's B2B players. I think this is a really interesting business (I don't own any shares, so this is an entirely independent comment) and you should watch it.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Back to school in China with Pearson?

This may be marginally off-topic, but the story in today's FT really caught my eye. Education is clearly one of the hot areas for the publishing and information services industry for the foreseeable future. Whether it's a logical step to actually buy the schools you service is another question but one which Pearson, the FT's parent company, appears to be grappling with in China.

The Shanghai Learning Education Center, or LEC, was founded in 2000 and now operates 9 or 10 schools (depending on which bit you read). We'll follow this with interest.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Alibaba exhibits at Second Life

I probably show my age by considering Second Life as a rather tedious time-waster for sad losers who don't have a first one. As with Facebook, however, I have been keeping half an eye on it in case it has relevance to our world. Of course, this may make me a sad loser in training!

Thanks to Mark for pointing out to me this post on the Ambling in Second Life blog. I went to have a look and was surprised to find myself in the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (see first pic). Even more surprised to go upstairs and find the MyAlibaba news studio. I have to say it was deserted and there was nothing going on there.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Softbank, Xiaonei and those social networks

As regular readers will know, I've been tracking the social networking phenomenon (most recently here) and trying to work out what it might mean for the industries we cover.

Some unkind souls have suggested that this is simply a good excuse for me to prowl the seamier nether regions of Facebook during the day. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth!

General conclusion as of this moment: 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, presumably building on that already very large installed base of users who have been keeping their address books up-to-date with Plaxo (about 8 - 10% of the 2,500 names in my Outlook address book).

MySpace was effectively dead for anything other than music business as soon as the teenagers all abandonned it almost on cue when Murdoch bought it.

This is, of course, the English language stuff. China, as always with the Internet, is marching to the beat of its own drum. We were interested then to see Japan's Softbank making a commitment to increase its stake in Oak Pacific Interactive to 40% by 2011. The price tag that's been put on this according to Bloomberg is ¥40 billion (US$385 million).

Oak Pacific's main asset in this transaction is, the Chinese equivalent of Facebook. This deal values Xiaonei at just shy of US$1 billion. The Mobinode blog thinks that Microsoft's investment in Facebook which gave that company a $15 billion valuation should be credited. Perhaps Mr. Son sniffs another IPO in the air and would like to repeat the success of his investment in Alibaba.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Aliren of the world unite

It is May Day, so a focus on the workers seems appropriate.

We know that we have teased our friends from Hangzhou quite consistently about their Ali-everything naming conventions. They should take comfort from the fact that we at BSG are not cruel people (well, most of us anyway) and don't pick on the weak. You have to be strong to earn the honour of being lampooned on this blog.

We couldn't resist picking up on Aliblogger Wendy Wong describing herself as an Aliren (阿里人). That was a new one for us. Those Alibloggers really are very pleased to wear their orange jackets. There's great team spirit there. It seems, to paraphrase the Irish Obama of 40 years ago "Today, in the world of e-commerce, the proudest boast is 'Wo shi Aliren'". I trust that doesn't also translate as "I am a jelly doughnut".