BGI-Shenzhen subsidiary to buy U.S. competitor for $117.6 million

Earlier this summer, Forbes, building on comments a U.S. Commerce Department official made in Nanjing, wrote that “China will be the big Asian investor buying up pieces of America’s landscape, natural resources and companies.”

Last month, the Los Angeles Times wrote that “Chinese companies are plowing money into U.S. assets at a record pace, making huge bids for American energy, aviation, entertainment and other businesses.”

That trend is alive and well.

Last week, those tracking U.S.-China M&A activity shifted their gazes towards a Chinese genome company.

The spotlight this time was on a city south of Nanjing, just across the border–and accessible via a seamless train trip–from Hong Kong. A U.S. subsidiary of Shenzhen-based genomics company BGI-Shenzhen is purchasing all shares of Mountain View, Calif.-headquartered competitor Complete Genomics Inc. for $117.6 million.

While all-U.S. mergers and acquisition activity has not been terribly active of late given the uncertainties in the U.S. economy and Europe’s future still a major question mark, numerous reports suggest Chinese investment in the United States may hit record levels in 2012.

And spurring on some of this investment is a strong Chinese yuan relative to the U.S. dollar.

The yuan has strengthened against the dollar since July–6.31 yuan bouught 1 U.S. dollar the end of last week, close to a record high for the yuan against the greenback.  The yuan was as strong as 6.29 RMB to 1 USD in February.

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Peculiar encounter at the “Dark Art Store”

In my 2 month stay in Hong Kong, I must say that the city doesn’t strike me as the most welcoming place, particularly in the service industries like clothing shops and restaurants. With the exception of my coworkers and some chance encounters, most of the times I get the feeling that people here don’t have an interest in getting to know outsiders. I’ve held this as a postulation until it was confirmed for me by an artist I met last night on an after-work excursion in Tsim Sha Tsui.

After work, my co-worker took me to an unassuming boutique mall, the ones with levels  and levels of small stores packed with mid-priced mass produced goods. We were there to pick up some bags and clothes before I left the country. During my hunt for good among the latest fads and bling, however, I came across a tiny store stuffed with exquisite dresses that looked like they came out of a fantasy film.

In the back of the room, Continue reading

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Hong Kong and Janus: Looking backward and forward

Hong Kong by night (photo by Andrew McIntyre)

After experiencing the marvel that is the Hong Kong transportation system, I never dreamed Hong Kong transit would have or could have gotten any more efficient during my short stay in town. 

Trains rolling into stations literally seconds after the tracks have been vacated (I timed it once–33 seconds from the time one train departed to the time another arrived).  Ingenius MTR station layout.  Quite comfortable and efficient double-decker busses.

But I was wrong. 

The system is even more user friendly than it was two months ago, with some taxis now accepting Visa and Octopus (look for the wings atop special cars).  Such is the fluid nature of Hong Kong.

I’ll take this moment to look back–Janus would be proud–across two months of media observations in this city that just can’t seem to sit still.

Public relations:

Public relations houses, not suprisingly, hold great sway in Hong Kong.  It is standard for PR folks to ask media for business cards, and often an electronic copy of the conference press release reaches my inbox before I do.  Can anyone say fast moving?

Media relations:

In a race pitting public relations with media relations, the former would almost certainly cross the finish line first.  That is not to say that media relations folks are slow, but rather that they don’t operate at the cheetah-like pace set by public relations.  Response time for comments from media relations folks greatly varies, based on the time it takes to get in touch with the person who can or will comment.

Requests for interviews:

I’ve had the vast majority of my requests for interviews granted.  The folks I’ve wanted to interview have been keen to speak with me, which shows that folks realize the influence the media have in this city.

Requests for information:

This one is a bit of a wildcard, as is likely the case just about anywhere one practices journalism.  The critical factor is knowing with whom to speak.  Initial phone calls often simply lead to alternate contact people, and working one’s way through a web of folks to the central person who is knowledgable and can share his or her information is paramount.

Citizen reporting:

Sure, Steve Jobs and the iPhone have helped millions to become citizen reporters.  Don’t get me wrong–on-the-spot photos are important.  But I still to this day get excited when I receive a citizen email detailing something curious happening around the city.  Judging by the relatively high number of such emails I saw over the summer, I believe Hong Kong citizens are quite interested in contributing stories to the media.

***

So as I turn to the other side of Janus, I have to wonder what trick Hong Kong next has up its sleeve. Carmageddon in Los Angeles averted.  All systems go in Hong Kong.  Don’t blink, or you might miss the next new Hong Kong fad.  Stay tuned.

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Throwing in the First Pitch

One of my final, most meaningful and challenging tasks for MSL Hong Kong this summer has been taking my first stab at compiling a pitch – a retainer pitch to one of our former clients, for whom we’ve conducted media relations in the past. It’s now time for MSL to propose a more long-term service campaign to their company, who has much potential to increase both their industry stature and thought leadership. Engagement with the local, Asia regional and finance media will be a large channel through which our potential new client can make these improvements – and this is where we’ll come in.

When drafting a PR strategy pitch, which takes its most elementary form in that of “PPT,” there are many sources of background information and ideas from which to draw. All of our findings, client opportunities and strategic ideas then fall into a three-pronged presentation comprised of: Current Status, Communication Needs & Strategy Proposal. The following steps summarize the most valuable steps which helped me through my first [several] attempts at a real-life client pitch:

1. Taking the Mound. The first resource that I referenced when compiling the pitch was a recent pitch given by my firm, which happened to be for a client in a similar, wealth-related industry. Starting with the template of a former and successful pitch allowed for efficient short-cuts to valuable insight, such as media lists of the relevant regional finance publications we’d recommend for our client or ideas for a financial client to enhance its industry thought leadership (i.e. through investor surveys, educational finance tutorials, etc.).

2. Getting a Grip. Once a template is established and a proposal is underway, the best way to brainstorm possible solutions for a potential new client is to look for gaps in the business of all parties involved. Not only was I advised to delve into what this company was lacking in media angles and industry input; I also researched their presence in Hong Kong specifically, and into what subject areas of Hong Kong wealth management their industry voice could fit. Moreover, I looked into which service areas of our firm and its financial department were under-developed; this provided great ideas into areas where perhaps our professionals had great experience but our agency itself didn’t in the recent past. Finally, a gap in the knowledge and ability of our local media landscape provided a great idea for our agency’s client pitch: an opportunity to exercise thought leadership among journalists in the region by sharing rudimentary tips on covering finance in local news.

3. The Wind-Up. Next, it was important that I examined all past or current initiatives that this potential new client already had under way. As this company had recently been a client of my agency – on a project-basis only, for their regional CEO’s first visit to Hong Kong – I first looked to which services the client had both benefited from and been happy with. In the case of this client, the one-day media tour on which we guided their spokesperson to discuss the findings of one of their recent industry surveys was a great success. Because this opportunity displayed the potential for this client’s story to gain coverage in the local and Asia finance media, we knew that they had much to gain from a routine, monthly media relations strategy and support package from our agency. Secondly, we turned to our London counterparts at Capital MSL for ideas from their past work with the same client, at their UK headquarters. Hooray for inter-agency idea-sharing!

4. The Release! Pending. Our corporate and financial team is nearly ready to share this invaluable proposal with the client!

5. The Follow-through. Follow-through on a client pitch entails research and forward-thinking, through such daily tasks as tracking the client’s local media coverage, staying abreast of recent industry trends or “hot topics,” and keeping an ever-open mind to new ideas or client projects.

Chan Ho Park, circa Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008

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Women’s soccer a “beautiful flower” for post-disaster Japan

Midfielder Nahomi Kawasumi (R) celebrates Japan's 3-1 victory vs Sweden during the women's World Cup semifinal, on July 13.

This piece was written prior to the Japanese women’s national soccer team victory in the 2011 World Cup.

Hong Kong (CNN) — Japan women’s national football team will square off against favorites the United States Sunday in their first appearance in a World Cup final.

Regardless of the result, Japan’s surprise progress in Germany is a much-needed boost for a country recently devastated by massive tremors and a subsequent tsunami.

It is also putting women’s sport in the shop window like never before.

“This is a breath of fresh air, because everything out of Japan has been negative over the last few months,” said Tom Byer, a youth soccer instructor in Japan for over 25 years and former soccer instructor of starter Aya Miyama. Continue reading

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My Internship Summary

Time flies as I expect. Only three days to go before leaving Hong Kong. The city is great. I especially love the super convenient MTR. People always talk about the food here. But honestly, comparing with Mainland, it is nothing! So… Shanghai welcomes you:)

Have to say, it is the best internship ever. I did several internships in media and in one marketing consultancy, but none of them was so well organized and fulfilling than this one. Thanks to Annenberg’s arrangement. Continue reading

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Inflation or not, depends on pigs?

Save up for the raining day, is what our mothers’ generation always remind us. According to this rule of thumb, some countries have national oil reserves, some keep grain reserves, both are understandable. China, yet goes beyond that, has national pork reserves.

Pork price has long been a concern, not only for ordinary people in China, but for Prime Minister Wen.

So far, people in China who are lacking in macro-economic knowledge still believe they can tell whether the country is under inflation just by being aware of pork price, for pork makes up more than half the meat consumed in China, and up to 70 percent in some areas, China’s state-run CCTV television network reported in May. Therefore, to control pork price seems the simplest as well as the quickest way to cap inflation and conciliate public concern. Beijing, acts as a veritable self-deceiver, plugging ears while stealing a bell: With the price of pig meat up 38 percent in major cities since the start of the year, the government is about to put its ‘smart’ national pork reserve strategy into practice now. (China’s Commerce Ministry said Friday that it planned to release part of the central government’s 200,000-metric-ton stash of frozen pork onto the market, following earlier releases from pork reserves held by cities and at least 11 provinces.) Continue reading

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Taiwan’s offices in Hong Kong, Macau to come out of hiding

A view of downtown Taipei (pictured left) and the Hong Kong skyline (right).

Hong Kong (CNN) — Taiwan’s de facto representative offices in Hong Kong and Macau — China’s two special administration regions (SAR) — will come out of hiding this week after operating incognito for nearly 45 years, a move that experts say defines a thawing of historically frosty cross-strait relations.

Functioning in Hong Kong under the moniker of the “Chung Hwa Travel Service” since the 1966 Chinese Cultural Revolution, the office has often been mistaken as a private travel company because of its title, said James Shi Chu, Taiwan’s Director General of Hong Kong & Macau Affairs.

The new office will be renamed and upgraded on July 15 to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Affairs office, a title indicative of its true functions, Chu said.

The decision to rename Taipei’s hub in Hong Kong delineates a warming of relations between Beijing and Taipei, said Joseph Cheng, a professor of political science at Hong Kong City University.

Continue reading

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A Lesson in News Judgement

ATV Screenshot of Jiang's death

It was the biggest news in the newsroom all of last week and even up until now. Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin was up until then, a name unfamiliar to many non-Chinese in the newsroom. I intern at an international news organization and I remember distinctly while working the control room on July 4th during the 4 pm show, rumors that the former president had died had already spread like wildfire. Although I had expected to prepare myself to go into ‘Breaking News’ mode, the call was never made. Even when that particular 4 o’clock show ended and the next show began, I was not given the signal. Finally at 6 pm when I was done with the shows I returned to my desk where I monitored local Hong Kong news stations ATV and TVB. Continue reading

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Power at the Top

The task of daily media monitoring for Hong Kong’s English news publications every morning has been an unexpected blessing for me as I find myself more informed on world issues that make up for the lack of news reading for the past few years. As ignorant as it is to admit, who knew articles on oil companies or venture capitals could be interesting?

Continue reading

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