FYI 5.20.2009

GM May Sell Chinese-Made Cars in China by 2011; 7-Eleven and Circle K Are Hong Kong's Favorite Brands; Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li Films Hit Blu-Ray Format; SK Telecom Launches Chinese E-Commerce Site

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General Motors Corp. plans to sell cars in the U.S. that it makes in China, starting in 2011, which could make GM the first major automaker to import Chinese cars to the U.S. market.

The car maker expects to sell about 17,335 of the China-made vehicles in the U.S. in 2011, and triple that number to 51,546 in 2014, a planning document circulated by GM among U.S. lawmakers shows. The gains would come, the 12-page document says, as GM's total U.S. sales surge 50% in the next five years. Even at the higher 2014 level, though, cars from China would still account for only 1.6% of GM's 3.1 million total expected sales in the U.S. that year.

The plans are subject to change pending the outcome of negotiations with United Auto Workers (UAW).

Many of these vehicles are likely to be small cars similar to the upcoming Chevy Spark, which will be built in South Korea, though the models will be different from any currently built in the U.S. by any automaker, an industry official said in an interview with Automotive News.

The automaker is trying to meet a government-imposed June 1 deadline to restructure operations and cut over $40 billion in debt, or risk bankruptcy. The UAW has criticized GM's restructuring plan because of increases envisioned by the plan in U.S. sales of cars made overseas.

"We are in dialogue with the UAW, and my view of a dialogue is that it is a good idea to have an open book on all the different subjects," said GM CEO Fritz Henderson. "We have a philosophy of building where we sell, and not only do we think that is the right thing to do, but the most profitable thing to do historically."

UAW officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But in a May 5 letter to senators, the UAW criticized GM plans to increase U.S. sales from other countries.

"GM should not be taking taxpayers' money simply to finance the outsourcing of jobs to other countries," the letter from UAW legislative director Alan Reuther said.
--by Neil Roland, a reporter for Automotive News, a publication of Crain Communications
American-based convenience stores are the top two brands among Hong Kong consumers, according to Superbrands, a brand survey conducted by Nielsen Co., which ranked 500 brands across 93 categories of consumer products and services last spring.

7-Eleven was the top-ranked brand, closely followed by Circle K and Sony in third place. In seventh place, Cathay Pacific Airways was the highest ranked home grown brand. In total, only two Hong Kong brands made it into the top ten, the second being local commercial broadcaster Television Broadcasts (TVB).

"The overall results are extremely interesting and reflect brand popularity with Hong Kong consumers. Some very big brand names in Hong Kong which one might have expected to appear in the Superbrands top 10 did not make it onto this year's list, while some brands made a surprising entry directly into the top-tier," said Mark Pointer, Superbrands CEO in Hong Kong.
News Corp.'s Hong Kong-based Star Group has signed its first Blu-ray licensing deal with Hong Kong based distributor Kam & Ronson Enterprise. The agreement includes titles in Star's Fortune Star division, the world's largest contemporary Chinese film and television library. The deal covers Hong Kong and Macau but the Blu-ray discs will also reach Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand through third party distributors.

It marks the very first time a Bruce Lee title has been released in the high definition Blu-ray format. Four Bruce Lee titles, including "The Big Boss," "The Way of the Dragon," "Enter the Dragon" and "Fist of Fury," have been licensed and will be available to consumers in June. Other titles to be distributed by Kam & Ronson on Blu-ray include Jackie Chan's "Police Story 1, 2 and 3," as well as Jet Li's "Once Upon a Time 1, 2 and 3."
South Korea's leading telecommunications provider, SK Telecom, has entered China's e-commerce market with the launch of an online fashion shopping mall in China called The site provides cross-border shopping services with apparel and fashion products from South Korea, Europe and the U.S., and is primarily aimed at affluent urban customers in their 20s and 30s, according to the group's president, Seok-Hwan Lee in Seoul.

The launch follows SK Telecom's December 2008 acquisition and reorganization of PRMAX, the Chinese subsidiary of Korea Center, which sets up and operates online shopping malls. China's e-commerce market is growing at an average annual rate of 75% and the total sales of fashion products amounted to over $4 billion in 2008, a 137% increase from the previous year.

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