BIIA co-founder and director Paul Woodward of Business Strategies Group, Hong Kong recently provided advice to members of ABM, the American Business Media Association.   Paul wrote:

Given the number of resumés arriving in Hong Kong from the US, it would appear that there is some optimism that Asia can provide some reprieve from the worst of the downturn. The truth is more mixed. Research Business Strategies Group (BSG) has been preparing suggests that, while the region has certainly not escaped the downturn, there are some bright spots.

Asia is, of course, a huge region stretching from Pakistan to Japan. Some countries have been more affected than others, with open markets, such as Hong Kong and Singapore who are heavily dependent on foreign trade and financial services, taking significant hits. Others, such as China and India, hope to be able to absorb the worst affects of the crisis with their large domestic markets making up for some of the business lost from Europe and North America. China is slowing, but should record 6.5 – 7% growth this year, which is hardly a disaster. Hong Kong and Singapore, by contrast, will record 7.5% and 5.9% declines in their economies according to the Economist.

As elsewhere in the world, this is having a big impact on print media dependent on advertising. The Economist group has recently announced the closure of its CFO Asia title, joining a number of other closures, including the 25 year-old Hong Kong Business. The business magazine markets in Asia (outside Japan) were already small, so this sector is not where most companies focus.

The key areas of focus in b-to-b in Asia is online and events. So far, the major online b-to-b businesses, notably Global Sources and, have held up well. Both, however, predict tough times in 2009. Alibaba’s mercurial founder and CEO Jack Ma was recently in the U.S. to drum up new partnerships. He is at best realistic about the downturn, telling the New York Times that the crisis would not end next year.

“Next year, we’ll all get used to it,” Ma said.  “The recession is going to last three to five years.”

The second-tier online players in Asia are suffering, and Ninetowns recently discontinued its b-to-b initiatives, closing its site.

In face-to-face, the major events are generally holding up quite well, although there have been reductions in space sales of 10 – 15% at many events. Asia’s largest trade fair, the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, is offering discounts for the first time in its history, as China’s export manufacturers struggle to find buyers. Exhibition organizers are looking to government support for promotions and subsidizing the travel expenses of key visitors in markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan. 

Source:  American Business Media Newsletter

BIIA Newsletter April 2009 Issue