Reader's Digest launches Puzhi

And other news in Greater China

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SHANGHAI--Reader’s Digest has launched a digest-sized magazine in mainland China called Puzhi, in partnership with the Shanghai Press and Publishing Development Company (SPPD). The two companies have published books together for several years. The Chinese-language digest will be published by SPPD’s wholly owned Puzhi Magazine Inc. under the direction of Wang You-Bu, SPPD's general manager and Puzhi's editor-in-chief.

Puzhi, which means “universal knowledge” in Mandarin, will be available at about 43,000 retail outlets in China, including convenience stores, book stores, newsstands and kiosks, with a target circulation of 420,000. The cover of the debut issue published this month shows a modern young woman holding a miniature globe.

"We are extremely excited about the partnership, which taps the synergies and strengths of both corporations with a commitment to produce a publication of supreme quality content and compelling reading, which will ultimately appeal to consumers in China," said Singapore-based Rosemarie Wallace, regional managing director, Asia, in a company statement.

Reader’s Digest will supply editorial content, marketing and distribution. Advertising sales will be done by wholly-owned subsidiary Reader’s Digest Advertising Co. in Hong Kong.

Five global companies including ESPN acquire 11% of NBA China
BEIJING--The National Basketball Association has formed NBA China, a new entity that will run all of the league’s businesses in Greater China, with five strategic global partners. The companies--Walt Disney Co.-owned ESPN, Bank of China Group Investment, Legend Holdings Ltd., the largest shareholder in the Beijing-based PC-maker Lenovo Group, Li Ka Shing Foundation and China Merchants Investments, will invest $253 million to acquire 11% of the company in preferred equity.

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in China, where it was introduced in the early 20th century by American missionaries. More recently, the country has produced one of the NBA’s most popular players, Yao Ming, who plays for the Houston Rockets, as well as Yi Jianlian, a highly-touted rookie playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The NBA, a sports and entertainment brand with 30 teams in the U.S. and Canada, opened a Hong Kong office in 1992 and employs 100 people in four offices in Greater China. The association hosted the Chinese National team in 1985, and regularly provides training for the team through U.S. coaching clinics and exhibition matches against NBA Development League teams. The NBA has relationships with 51 Chinese broadcasters including China Central Television, or CCTV, and has organized hundreds of touring basketball events for fans. In China, the NBA has 16 marketing partnerships with a local companies and multinationals.

"The opportunity for basketball and the NBA in China is simply extraordinary,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern in a company statement. “The expertise, resources and shared vision of these immensely successful companies will help us to achieve the potential we see in the region."

Tim Chen, Microsoft Corp.'s former CEO of Greater China, joined the NBA in October 2007 as CEO of the NBA China.

Caijing considers publishing in English
NEW YORK--China’s leading business magazine Caijing is looking into publishing in English, starting with the first English-language version of the magazine’s annual forecasting issue “China 2008: Forecasts and Strategies.” Caijing introduced the first English-language initiative last week in New York in a panel discussion at the Asia Society with the magazine’s top editors.

“We plan to leverage our brand power in developing Caijing into a multimedia platform,” said Caijing’s Editor Hu Shuli, who founded the magazine in 1998. “We want to do more English-language products, and we’re already investing in developing into a high quality daily-news web site, which is still rare in China.”

In an effort to introduce business news about China to more readers, the magazine has also started translating the top half dozen or so stories from each issue into English and posting them on the site.

“It takes more time to learn about the English-speaking market,” said Managing Editor Wang Shuo. “It’s a work in progress.”

Mr. Wang said Caijing has to figure out, for instance, what format to use—print or online—to reach English-language readers. “Today Caijing is the first Chinese print media to create original content for its web site. Almost 30 journalists work exclusively for the web site," he explained.

Western media now tend to integrate newsrooms so journalists work for both print and online, and Caijing plans to do the same.

“Every journalist will work for both products,” Mr. Wang said. “Our vision is we want to create a 24/7 quality news platform both in Chinese and in English.”

Caijing publishes every two weeks, with a circulation of 220,000, and 65% of sales are by subscription, said General Manager Daphne Wu. The web site relaunched in March 2007, and started selling advertising. Ms. Wu said IBM is the biggest advertiser on the site.
--by Laurel Wentz, Advertising Age's international editor

BusinessWeek will relaunch Executive Life in April
HONG KONG--BusinessWeek is redesigning its luxury lifestyle magazine in China, Executive Life, to respond to the growing demand for sophisticated and intelligent editorial on how to spend and enjoy life. The redesign will be spearheaded by integrated branding and marketing communications agency Stepworks and include editorial and design upgrades.

“With Executive Life, we will offer affluent executives in China a highly stylized, sophisticated, and worldly lifestyle magazine," sid Desiree Au, Executive Life's editorial consultant, who recently joined BusinessWeek in China to help oversee the relaunch. Previously, she was an editor at the South China Morning Post Group's Post Magazine and Style.

Executive Life will be published quarterly as a supplement to BusinessWeek's Chinese-language edition, which has a circulation of almost 135,000.  The first issue of the redesigned magazine will be out in April 2008, with 72 pages, about 50 editorial pages and 22 ad pages.

Its readership profile and rate card are similar to BusinessWeek China, which is published in collaboration with China Commerce and Trade Press, an affiliated agency of China’s Ministry of Commerce. The full page four-color ad costs $17,300. Past advertisers in Executive Life included Breguet, Armani, Audi, Steelcase, Peninusla, Samsung, Jaguar and the Macau Tourism Board.

Longbridge likely to start building cars under Chinese ownership
LONDON--Under its new, cash-rich Chinese owners, England's historic Longbridge assembly plant is likely to start building mass-market cars again. Volume production at the plant stopped in 2005 when former owner MG Rover collapsed. Up to three mainstream models could be built in the central England plant, said Eleanor de la Haye, Nanjing's Longbridge spokeswoman.

Last month, Shanghai Auto Industry Corp. (SAIC), China’s largest car manufacturer, agreed to buy the vehicle and core auto parts operations of privately held Nanjing Auto, Longbridge's owner, for 2.1 billion yuan (about $290 million). With a stock market value of about €16.6 billion, SAIC has financial clout roughly equivalent to Italy's Fiat group or Hyundai of South Korea.

Plus, the state-owned company has the support of the Chinese government, which wants China's automakers to consolidate so they can become globally competitive. SAIC aims to restore production of original MG models in Longbridge soon, said SAIC President Chen Hong. It also plans new MG models for Europe.

"The British business will become SAIC's new platform for overseas markets and a window for SAIC to Europe," Mr. Chen said.

In May, Nanjing showed some MG TF roadsters that it planned to assemble in Longbridge. But full-scale production has not started.

Ms. De la Haye said Longbridge could build "entirely new products" in addition to the TF and lower-premium MG 7, which it had planned to build there within the next five years.

The two companies have to decide how to handle the overlaps in their product ranges before choosing which models to build. The models could include the MG 3 small hatchback and the MG 5 lower-medium sedan plus SAIC Motor's Roewe W2 lower-medium car. TF production will start shortly, Ms. de la Haye said, with the car destined for U.K. showrooms by March 1.

Nanjing said in a statement that it would strengthen r&d, sales and manufacturing at Longbridge, where cars have been produced since 1905.
--By Tony Lewin, and first reported in Automotive News Europe
, a division of Crain Communications

National Geographic magazine now in China
WASHINGTON, D.C.--The National Geographic Society has launched National Geographic magazine in China. Published in partnership with IDG and Trends Communications, the Chinese edition is the 31st local-language edition of National Geographic magazine globally. At least 25% of the editorial of the magazine must be local content under the terms of the government-granted license, but it has the same format as the U.S. edition, including the same yellow-bordered cover design.

Network CN secures outdoor ad rights at Beijing's new terminal
NEW YORK--Network CN, a Chinese media and travel network company headquartered in Hong Kong, has secured the advertising rights to 98 rolling light boxes at Beijing International Airport’s Terminal 3. Beijing’s airport is the busiest terminal in mainland China, the second-busiest airport in Asia and the ninth-busiest in the world, in 2006 passenger traffic. It currently operates around 1,100 flights a day, but is expected to handle 1,500 or more daily flights for the Olympics in 2008. Terminal 3 is slated to open this March.

Bank of Communications appoints Grey Group
SHANHGAI-- Bank of Communications (BOCOM) has handed its creative and strategic business for its corporate branding to Grey Group, Shanghai, following a four-way pitch against JWT, Saatchi & Saatchi and Bates. The win marks the first time the bank has appointed an agency to develop its corporate image. The Shanghai-based state-owned commercial bank, founded in 1908, has operations in 148 Chinese cities, and is one of the top five commercial banks in China. London-based HSBC Group has a minority stake in the bank.

Chinese automakers increase their presence
SHANGHAI--Chinese carmakers had their largest presence yet at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the center of the U.S. auto industry, from January 13-15, 2008.

The companies expected to gain valuable insight into the American market and stake a small claim on the minds of U.S. dealers and consumers. If their cars are unrefined, though, they risk planting a poor impression of Chinese cars in the minds of those dealers and consumers.

The five companies that took part--Geely Automobile Group, Zhongxing Automobile Co. and China America Cooperative Automotive Inc. (Chamco), BYD Auto Co., Changfeng Motor Co., Li Shi Guang Ming Auto Design Co.--are small by Chinese standards and completely untested in Western markets.

The presence of more Chinese brands in Detroit certainly will generate buzz among auto dealers, said Albert Gallegos, director of international affairs for the National Automobile Dealers Association. NADA will try to temper that excitement with a workshop on Chinese brands at the NADA convention in San Francisco in February.

Mr. Gallegos wants U.S. dealers to make informed choices, and advised viewing the Chinese brands in Detroit with a skeptical eye. "You have to do your complete due diligence."

Here is a summary of the five automakers on display at Cobo Center for the show.

Geely Automobile Group

Geely founder Li Shufu was a pioneer when he put one of his small, cheap cars in the lobby of Cobo Center in 2006. In China, the automaker is known for low prices, not quality. Geely will need to improve its models for export before it can hope to do well in the United States. Domestically, the small automaker's sales rose by only 9% to 149,843 units in the first 10 months of 2007, while China's overall car market grew by 26.3%.

Zhongxing Automobile Co. and China America Cooperative Automotive Inc. (Chamco)

Chamco, a distributor based in Parsippany, N.J., showed some Zhongxing models to dealers in the Renaissance Center during the 2007 Detroit show. This year will be a test for Zhongxing, to see whether it can meet the quality and styling standards needed to succeed in the United States. Zhongxing remains a small player in the China market. It sold only 31,334 pickups and SUVs in 2006; that should rise by about 5.3% in 2007, according to company estimates.

BYD Auto Co.

BYD's parent company makes batteries, so you might think that BYD would be showing an electric car in Detroit. Not so. BYD begin selling gasoline-powered small cars a few years ago. It will bring those models to the United States. Although BYD sold only 80,588 units in the first 10 months of 2007, that was up 63.5% from the same period in 2006. BYD said it eventually wants to concentrate on electric models. The company plans to launch a plug-in hybrid model in the second half of 2008 and a pure electric model in 2009.

Changfeng Motor Co.

Changfeng Motor Co. made history last year as the first Chinese brand to exhibit inside Cobo, albeit in the basement. Reactions were mixed to the tiny SUV maker, which sold only 33,000 units in 2006. Changfeng faces the same challenges all Chinese automakers face in coming to the United States: making high-quality models that meet U.S. emissions and safety standards, building brand recognition, and dealing with warranty and after-sales service issues.

Li Shi Guang Ming Auto Design Co.

Li Shi Guang Ming, basically a company still in startup mode, doesn't even have a license to sell cars in China. But it wants to sell them in the United States. Li Shi Guang Ming may find a receptive audience in Detroit. It is showing a small electric vehicle to be used as a golf cart or for similar off-road transportation chores, and the company is looking for investors. Li Shi Guang Ming also will show the quirkiest car from China at the show, a four-seat amphibious vehicle with a propeller. The vehicle is powered by a lithium ion battery.
--By Alysha Webb, Beijing-based reporter for Automotive News, a division of Crain Communications

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