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October 14, 2009

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Caijing's future in doubt on mass exodus

THE general manager of China's most influential financial magazine and dozens of her staff have resigned, in a possible tussle over editorial control at the Beijing-based publication.

Caijing Magazine spokeswoman Heidi Zhang told The Associated Press yesterday that the biweekly's Daphne Wu Chuanhui and 60 to 70 employees who worked for her in the business department have resigned. She declined to comment on the reasons for the exodus.

The mass resignations at Caijing are fueling speculation that Editor-in-Chief Hu Shuli is also planning to leave, possibly to start her own publication.

In a story on Monday, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post cited anonymous staff members as saying that Hu had been trying to pressure the journal's owner and publisher, Hong Kong-listed SEEC Media Group, into surrendering majority control by bringing in outside investors.

The paper said that if Hu failed, she might resign to launch a new venture.

The newspaper said the business-side resignations were a show of support for Hu.

"I can't comment on their speculations," Zhang said when asked about the report. "Hu is still working. She didn't take any action."

When asked to confirm whether Hu and the magazine's owner and publisher were in negotiations about a possible restructuring, Zhang said the two sides were expected to "have some communication" but was unable to give specific details.

Caijing "would not even be a shadow of its former self" without Hu, said Chan Yuen-ying, a journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong.

"People will be watching very closely for Hu Shuli's second act and I am confident that it will only be better for all kinds of reasons and there will be people who are willing to fund and support someone with a successful track record," Chan said.

The 11-year-old Caijing has a circulation of 100,000 but boasts annual advertising revenues of about 200 million yuan (US$29.4 million), making it one of the country's most profitable publications.

A company financial report in June said Caijing's revenue fell 16.9 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period a year earlier, generating approximately HK$54.1 million (US$6.9 million).

SEEC has other magazines in its portfolio, but Caijing is its flagship publication.

Stock trading in SEEC has been volatile since rumors of the disagreement with Hu first surfaced last month. The stock had risen 16 percent in the last month.

If Hu and her associates do try to form a new venture that breaks out of Caijing's successful niche, they would face a field crowded with news portals, many of them long-established listed brands, as well as competition from government-run media that are expanding the scope and speed of their financial coverage.


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