FIRST CHINA Securities Consultancy (Shenzhen) Co Ltd, the wholly-owned electronic financial media arm of Hong Kong-listed First China Financial Holdings (8123 HK), is aiming to take its capital market expertise from the boardroom to broadband, and ultimately into the hands of consumers – literally.
First China Shenzhen’s visionary Chairman and CEO, Mr. Wang Wenming, is passionate about bringing his company’s live streaming stock market information and nuanced picks of the day directly to the cell phones of subscribers to his company’s services.
Mr. Wang does not find full professional fulfillment in wearing just a single hat, but also serves as a Congressman of the 4th term of the People’s Congress for Shenzhen Municipality, and Deputy Chairman of both the Enterprise Alliance Association and the Entrepreneur Association of Futian District of Shenzhen Municipality.
And his aspirations for First China Shenzhen are no less modest, having often been cited as saying he hopes to eventually turn the company into a “Chinese Bloomberg.”
First China Group operates an online video portal website called "Stocks Online," with a daily pageview volume of two mln hits, and owns digital TV broadcasting rights via Nanjing and Guangzhou TV stations.
China’s next Bloomberg?
Under Mr. Wang’s leadership, the financial media firm has expanded more rapidly than even the chairman originally envisaged.
And like the US-based financial media giant founded by the incumbent New York City mayor, First China Shenzhen is also very aware of the critical role that both hardware (ie: Bandwidth and signal strength) and software (ie. Enlightened management and talented staff) play in this hypercompetitive media subsector.
And with continuous reinvestment in leading edge information systems and the infrastructure needed to bring it from newsrooms to mobile handsets, First China Shenzhen has already reached a critical mass of sorts, technologically speaking.
“For us, technology is no longer a limiting factor. We simply need to sign more contracts to keep growing,” Mr. Wang told NextInsight, Aries Consulting and a group of Greater China fund managers last week at his office overlooking the financial solar plexus of Hong Kong with a view north over the misty mountains to the People’s Republic … and its 1.3 bln potential subscribers.
And with an office only a short commute to two major bourses – The Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange – Mr. Wang sees great potential in focusing on coverage of counters listed on the two capital markets.
Given the much-anticipated October 1 birth of the GEM market in Shenzhen – touted by many as China’s equivalent of the Nasdaq, First China Shenzhen will only find itself having more counters and indices to cover, and more information-hungry investors to feed over time.
This is just fine with Mr. Wang, as the company has quickly expanded its home-grown financial news center and broadcast facility to a sizable call center staff of some 300 salespeople as of October 2008, 70,000 subscribers for stock information services and 1.5 mln investors on its clientele database.
Helping to bring in more of China’s stock market investors – whether actual or potential – is Mr. Wang’s strong relationships with regional officials across the country, and the leverage that his powerful political standing in Shenzhen affords him with both regulators and Chinese mobile operators, which expedites First China Shenzhen’s ability to secure more contracts with the likes of China Unicom.
“We are about to sign a deal with Hubei province, and we’re going to Hunan province this week to look for others,” Mr. Wang said.
The real-time financial market information service subscription rate is 1,400 yuan per month, which Mr. Wang does not believe will price many stock buyers – whether institutional or retail – out of consideration.
“We are different than other online financial media providers. We’ll be focusing on cell phones to access television stations. So if you can make a call, you can access our network,” he said, highlighting the importance of establishing and maintaining good working relationships with the country’s mobile service providers.
First China Shenzhen was doing something right, because like the A-share markets over the past eight months – the money keeps flowing in.
He said revenue over the past couple years has been in the neighborhood of 6-7 mln yuan per month, that he was aiming for a “considerably higher” top line in the third year of operation, with a targeted revenue of 3 bln yuan in 2010.
“Our Wanhua Tong package comes with many multi-media portal access. We also have our ‘stock market online’ service. Initially we are targetting five provinces, then we’ll set our sights on 10,” he said.
Prior to taking over the helm of the stock information services firm, Mr. Wang set up Shenzhen Guangxin Investment Co Ltd and Shenzhen Wealth Alliance Networking Co Ltd -- an IT network firm.
Earlier, he established Shenzhen Sky Picture Communications Co Ltd, an AV production company, and this background experience clearly informs Mr. Wang’s fascination and expertise with bringing financial information to the handsets of savvy investors.
And now, with his political and technical pedigree well established, the Chairman was ready to take it to the next level, let the competition be darned.
“We are different than our peers in the financial information space. They focus more on economic news, macroeconomic trends. But we are directly looking at stock performance. In this weay, with over one mln visitors per day, we are ahead of Phoenix and SinaFinance. And we not only offer textual information but live webcam broadcasts as well,” he said.
First China Shenzhen was also piggybacking on the success of media partners like CCTV, Shanghai TV, and Jiangsu TV, all heavyweights in the sector.
Accordingly, Mr. Wang said one of First China Shenzhen’s “greatest assets” is its ability to keep in touch with investors, and accompany them on their daily busy routines.
This would allow the company to achieve its target of five mln customers within three years.
He also said that the best way to make money was to offer free service, as odd as that sounded.
“Our financial news channel was a pay-station at first, but now its free via TV. We prefer non-pay TV because it boosts our future potential customer base for handset service subscribers. Now I don’t care if viewers are paying or not, because I have a product to sell,” he said.
Mr. Wang, who owns fewer than 30% of the company’s shares, said his business thrived even more in a market slowdown, suggesting that his firm may enjoy the benefits of countercyclicality.
“Viewership numbers for financial information tends to go up in bear markets,” he said.