FYI 07.15.2009

Laureen Ong Leaves Star TV; Fiat Will Build Cars in China; Lenovo to Sponsor 2010 World Expo

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Amid a major restructuring, News Corp.'s Star TV has announced that Laureen Ong is stepping down as chief operating officer in mid-August. Staffers will report directly to Star CEO Paul Aiello. Ms. Ong joined Star in May 2007.

The Hong Kong-based pay-TV operator broadcasts over 60 television services in 13 languages to more than 300 million viewers in 53 Asian countries. Channels operated by Star and its joint venture partners include Star Plus, Xing Kong, Star World, ESPN, Star Sports, Star Movies and Channel [V].

STAR controls over 20,000 hours of Indian and Chinese programming and also owns the world's largest contemporary Chinese film library, with more than 600 titles, featuring superstars like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat and Bruce Lee. In partnership with leading companies, STAR businesses extend to filmed entertainment, television production, cable systems and distribution, direct-to-home services, terrestrial TV broadcasting, wireless and digital services. STAR is a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corporation.

The division has never been highly profitable but the global recession has led to deep cost cutting. Major layoffs have already taken place across all departments with more expected in the coming weeks, according to sources.

"STAR is undertaking a business and effectiveness review with the aim of creating optimal structure to support continued growth and seize significant opportunities in the region. The review is expected to take a number of months," a Star spokesperson told Ad Age China.
Fiat will begin building cars in China again in the second half of 2011 after signing an agreement on July 13 with Guangzhou Automobile Industry Groupork to build cars and engines for the Chinese market in a 50-50 joint venture.

Guangzhou Auto, already a Chinese partner of both Honda and Toyota, last year sold over 530,000 cars. The new venture with Fiat includes building a $558 million factory with an initial production capacity of 140,000 cars and 220,000 engines per year. Production is scheduled to begin in the second half of 2011 at the plant in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, about 600km north of Guangzhou. The first model will be the Linea sedan, with the Bravo and Grande Punto to follow.

Fiat began cooperating with Guangzhou Auto in early 2008. To develop its own brand, Guangzhou Auto last year bought the platform of Fiat's Alfa Romeo 166 large four-door sedan. The car was discontinued in Italy in spring 2007.

Fiat turned its attention to Guangzhou Auto after failing to finalize a memorandum of understanding with Chery Automobile. In August 2007, Fiat and Chery signed a preliminary agreement to form a joint venture to assemble 175,000 Alfa Romeo and Fiat cars a year. The 2009 start date was repeatedly delayed, and finally postponed indefinitely due to the industry downturn.

Fiat stopped building cars in China after ending a joint venture with Naijing Automotive in 2007. Since then, Fiat had been importing into China a few thousand European-built cars a year.
--Luca Ciferri, a reporter for Automotive News China
Lenovo has signed up to sponsor Shanghai's World Expo 2010 by providing support for the event's computer system and hardware. The event, to be held from May 1-Oct. 31, 2010, is expected to be the largest, most complex World Expo to date with 239 exhibitors and an estimated 70 million visitors.

Taking part in the Expo is Lenovo's latest effort to build a global brand and protect its position as the leading computer marketer in China. The mainland now accounts for about 14% of global PC sales, which reached 291 million in 2008, according to Gartner, a technology research company.

Lenovo was the only Chinese company to invest in global sponsorship of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing and the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. It also sponsored the global Olympic torch relay last year.

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