Friday, May 18, 2007

Wow, Again.

Today we concluded our two day tour through the business culture Hong Kong style. On Thursday, we left Hong Kong and reentered China to visit several sites in Shenzen, a heavy manufacturing zone. After China regained control of Hong Kong, they enabled a principle of “one country, two systems”. Because of that, when entering and exiting, we had to pass through customs again with a great degree of paperwork.

Our first visit was to Lenovo. We met with the VP of Global Manufacturing for Lenovo. Fixing the supply chain is the number one priority for Lenovo. He discussed many aspects of their global and Chinese operations as well as his thoughts on the ex-pat lifestyle. We then toured the worldwide manufacturing plant for ThinkPad which produces 35,000 units per day, all hand assembled. Interestingly, there is absolutely no government control of Lenovo, never has been.

We were then hosted for a delicious lunch where we also met with the head of Gradiente for China, a Brazilian manufacturing firm.

After lunch, we visited a Joint Venture between IBM and China Great Wall Computer Corporation. Great Wall manufactures huge servers for IBM. Joint ventures are an entry point for multi-nationals into China. They are typically required for many industries and it becomes a way for companies to develop relationships and a foothold in China. We were able to hear from the head of operations and also tour the manufacturing facility. Servers of this type generally begin at $250,000 US dollars. Part of the presentation was a continued discussion about the Chinese talent pool. In almost every company we have visited, the talent pool is young, educated and very passionate – what company would not want that “problem”?

I ended the night with a stop to visit Francis and Cindy, owners of New Hung Cheng Company, custom tailors in Hong Kong, for my fitting. I have a blue suit, a tux and five shirts coming back with me. Custom work is amazing and I look forward to the final fitting on Saturday.

On Friday morning, we began the day with a trip to China Construction and Bank of America. Thanks to the fact that our dean, Steve Jones, sits on Bank of America’s Board of Directors, we were addressed by Sam Tsien, President and Chief Executive Officer for China Construction Bank and Fred Chin, Managing Director at Bank of America and also Company Manager for Hong Kong. Bank of America bought about a 9% share in China Construction, one of China’s four large government-owned bank’s. This is a strategy Bank of America is pursuing, different from Citi which bought a larger position in a smaller, regional bank. It will be interesting to see which strategy works out in the end, something we may not know for several years. The photo here was talent from the meeting room at the top floor where our meeting was hosted.

We then traveled to Li & Fung, the blue chip of the sourcing industry. We were fortunate to be addressed by Bruce Rockowitz, president of Li & Fung, a $12 billion supply chain company. Each of us on the trip is responsible for studying one of the companies we visit and serve as ambassadors for the group at each appointed visit. This was the company I reported on and boy was it amazing. Over the last several years, they sourced, manufactured, packaged and shipped 8.6 billion consumer goods across the globe and don’t have one plant, one ship, truck or train on their balance sheet. They are truly a new age, virtual company. No assets but plenty of cash flow. Believe me, I could go on forever about this company but will spare you the gory details. Just know this: I bet at least 75% of everything in your house has been touched by Li & Fung. My partner on this report, Kate Blanchard, and I are presenting Bruce with a gift, of which I told him Li & Fung probably sourced.

Finally, we ended the day at Dubai Ports International – and were simply amazed. DPI operates the Hong Kong port – the third largest in the world. At DPI, we drove our bus through the largest concrete facility in the world – larger than the Pentagon at 9 million square feet. It rises twenty floors from the port floor. Takes in 12,000 vehicles a day. Has 15 miles of highway intertwined within it and offers up 6 million square feet of storage space. We all agreed that DPI was a great way to end our trip in China.

Tonight, we head to an Irish pub to wrap up the course as we share our thoughts and perspectives on what we have seen and experienced. Tomorrow is a free day before we leave on Sunday.

Fortunately, in a truly global world, I’m off to a cocktail party hosted by Brian and Lizzy Moore, friends from North Carolina. And who knows what the night will entail.

Stay tuned.

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