Corporate watch

Plenty of western magazines and newspapers have hit the skids or even gone bust in recent years, victims of declining print advertising revenues in an increasingly internet-oriented world. Think of bankrupt Newsweek magazine, famously sold for $1.

Until recently, Chinese media companies were blissfully isolated from these trends, buoyed by a bullish economy and the relative novelty of consumer-oriented media in a sector long dominated by dowdy state mouthpieces.

No longer. As the Chinese economy slows and the online population expands, media malaise is now moving east. One company grappling with the changes is Modern Media Group, a Hong Kong-listed magazine publisher. Read more

Being recognised by Bollywood is often the ultimate accolade for anything in India – an issue, a person, a business. But the folks at India’s number one matrimonial website seem admirably unfazed by the imminent launch next year of a Bollywood romcom, ‘Running‘. Read more may be frequently dubbed China’s answer to Craigslist, the pioneering US classified site. But its founder isn’t keen on the comparison. He has a bigger ambition: to be like Alibaba.

Jinbo Yao, founder and chief executive of, tells beyondbrics that he was initially inspired by Craigslist to found the company in 2005: “But we are different in terms of our business model. We hope will become a company like Alibaba, to connect merchants and users in the area of daily life services.” Read more

How do international brands such as Jimmy Choo and Burberry work in India? What makes Bottega Veneta and Canali sell in a nation where the GDP per capita is less than the price of many designer handbags?

Genesis Luxury offers an answer. Founded in 2008, the group works as local partner in India for these and many other high end brands, through joint ventures and marketing and distribution agreements. Read more

A Chinese manufacturer and direct seller of health, cleaning and beauty products with Malaysian roots may not be the most obvious cross-border investor in the South African wine industry. But Guangdong-based Perfect China is selling volumes of classic wine with a French heritage produced in South Africa’s vineyards. It is one more sign of the potential for Asian investors with an innovative eye for Africa. Read more

As the French author Victor Hugo put it: “All the forces in the world are not as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

Hugo died long before electricity became commonplace in Europe’s major cities, but his aphorism could easily be applied to electricity itself – and even to Turkey’s Karadeniz Holding, which has come up with a novel and successful means of taking power to parts of the world where existing supply has problems meeting growing demand. Read more

What do you do if you are a prized oil technician in one of Opec’s leading producers and your nation’s president tells you to leave your job and your country because you are not siding with him?

Answer: you move to Bogotá to help set up Pacific Rubiales Energy, now Colombia’s leading independent oil producer, founded in 2004. It absorbed some of the brightest talent from PdVSA, Venezuela’s state oil group, who were sacked after an energy strike that hit Venezuela’s economy hard in the early 2000s. Read more

We’re all used to the sight of emerging market portfolio investors getting nervous. Just look at the hammering Brazilian stocks have taken as its economy slumped over the past couple of years.

But what about real investors, the ones who build factories? Foreign direct investment into Brazil has stayed pretty steady at about $60bn a year. Don’t those investors get nervous, too? The answer is: Yes, they do, but in different ways. Read more

For an online movie streaming service, selling DVDs in shops might seem like a backward step.

But for Nigerian film provider Iroko it’s all part of a long term plan to dominate online films in Africa. Having successfully set up an African diaspora-based business of streaming films all over the world, Njoku is looking to build its African audience. But the internet isn’t good enough in many parts of the continent. Which is why Iroko needs a DVD business, says founder Jason Njoku. Read more

By Ben Aris of bne

Russian mobile phone operators just launched their first 4G networks and the biggest cities are due to be covered by the end of this year. The move to better technology has opened a new world of opportunity for Russian Towers, the country’s first, and to date only, independent company leasing out mobile phone base stations to what are now the biggest operators in Europe. Read more

Small can be beautiful. Just ask Yang Donghao, chief financial officer of Vipshop, a US-listed Chinese online discount retailer.

In a country where e-commerce is dominated by Alibaba’s Taobao online marketplace (through which small merchants can hawk their wares directly to buyers), Vipshop has found success by tapping into the hunger among those living in China’s smaller cities for branded fashion. Read more

By Ben Aris of bne

Potash is big business. Developing a major deposit costs billions of dollars and there are only a handful of viable deposits scattered around the world. Yet over the past two decades it has been a quiet business. Three companies – Uralkali in Russia, its partner Belaruskali in Belarus and PotashCorp in Canada – account for just under three-quarters of global production.

However, things have started to change. Read more

If Adolfo Babatz has his way, his startup company, Clip, might just single-handedly revolutionised how Mexicans pay for goods and services.

The idea is a simple one: transform smartphones into card reading terminals. But if successful, thousands if not millions of small mom-and-pop shops or even professionals in Mexico could soon be able to take payments from credit or debit cards for their products or services. Read more

Nigerian banks have a way of finding their own solutions, be it fixing a crisis or getting first-time borrowers and savers into the system.

Or listing in London, for that matter. Three Nigerian banks have listed global depositary receipts on the London Stock Exchange. Zenith Bank is the latest, and is the second to do so among the country’s five Tier-1 banks. The move is one born of new confidence, and a search for new investors. Read more

A company that launched on April Fool’s Day and takes its name from the Hindi word for chaos doesn’t sound like a winner.

But in its 14 years Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, the parent of, has grown to become the world’s largest aggregator and distributor of Bollywood entertainment.

It works with more than 400 content creators to distribute material in 47 countries through over 150 partners. With viewers in 127 countries, India’s Rs112.4bn film industry, which recently celebrated its centenary, is certainly not short of paying customers. Read more

Xinyuan Real Estate is making bold moves into the US property market, backed by its ready access to China’s monied classes. But in its latest project, it is surprisingly keen to play down its Chinese roots. Read more

Azerbaijan is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, transforming itself in a few years from a war-ravaged backwater into an increasingly assertive presence on the regional stage. Its emergence can largely be attributed to its hydrocarbon resources, marshalled by the government-owned State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (Socar).

Now Socar aims to play a central role in the diversification of gas supplies to Europe. Read more

Lock&Lock is a curious entity in modern manufacturing. Despite fierce competition in a crowded sector with few entry barriers, the South Korean kitchenware company consistently boasts double-digit operating profit margins.

Cho Moon-sun, head of investor relations, puts it down to branding. “Once you are recognised as a premium brand, consumers will buy your products even if they are three or four times more expensive,” she says. Read more

A multinational from Mali sounds like a contradiction in terms. But the Azalai Hotels chain is just that.

Businessman Mossadeck Bally got into hotels 20 years ago. He now presides over a chain of six landmark properties in four countries, with a sheaf of expansion plans. He’s not yet Africa’s Conrad Hilton. But he has built a thriving group recently valued at over €60m, employing 800 people in some of the world’s poorest states. Read more

Russia still has lots of oil but an era of low-cost, conventional production is coming to an end. Whether oil majors battle the decline by developing conventional or non-conventional resources, oilfield services providers, the work horses of the industry, will have plenty to do.

“There are not many red lights flashing out there,” says Richard Anderson, chief financial officer at London-listed Eurasia Drilling Company, Russia’s biggest independent oil drilling contractor. “The whole business is just a great opportunity.” Read more