Events firm Pico expands in China
Events organiser Pico is gearing up for expansion in the Chinese market by building new offices for itself in Beijing and Shanghai.
Pico chairman Lawrence Chia said the company was prepared to invest 150 million yuan (HK$184 million) in its Beijing office, which he expected to have completed by year's end. He anticipated that a 250 million yuan Shanghai office would be opened by the summer next year.
'We do business not for just one or two international events,' Chia said. 'We believe in the long-term potential in China's market. More high-end conferences will be held in China and we need to get ready to welcome the shift.'
Pico provided marketing services for Coca-Cola, China Mobile and computer-maker Lenovo during the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, creating a centre for trading Olympic lapel pins for Coca-Cola and setting up a showcase for China Mobile and an internet cafe for Lenovo.
At the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, it helped launch the United Arab Emirates pavilion and another for the mainland's oil industry.
Although China is not scheduled to play host to events of the same scale and global impact in the near future, Chia said Pico was confident about its prospects and expected Pico's Chinese revenues to increase by about 20 per cent this year.
Change was already taking place on the global conference and event calendar, said Chia, who noted that Hong Kong now hosted the world's largest exhibitions of jewellery, toys, and gifts. Exhibitions have relocated over the past 10 years because more buyers were in Asia.
The Hong Kong-listed company is also eyeing the emerging markets of India, the Middle East, and South America. 'We'd like to keep a balance and not to rely on any single market,' Chia said
Currently China accounts for 30 per cent of Pico's revenue, with Hong Kong and Taiwan contributing 20 per cent. The other major markets for Pico include Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Malaysia.
According to a report by UFI, the Global Association for the Exhibition Industry, China accounted for 46 per cent of the increase in global exhibition space from 2006 to 2011, and 70 per cent of the Chinese space was created in new venues.
China's exhibition market had entered a strong expansion phase after gradual growth over the past 20 years, said Chia, and supporting facilities for meetings and exhibitions has now been established, especially in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
'Now, the meetings and exhibitions are expanding into third-tier cities, like Wuxi and Shenyang.'
Chia said business would come when the venues were ready.
'It's like the hotel industry. Do you wait for the guests to show up, and only then start building a hotel? Or you build one first and then wait for it to attract tourists?'
Despite impressive growth in exhibition and conference business, China's market remained small compared with the US, where it generated revenues of between US$20 billion and US$30 billion, said Chia.
'In China the business is worth only US$1 billion to US$5 billion. So the potential is huge.'