Thursday, September 07, 2006

新东方 (Xin Dongfang) or “New Oriental” Lists on NYSE

New Oriental is, according to Zhongguancun technocrati, the most successful enterprise in Zhongguancun. This is partially a joke since the most well-known companies in Zhongguancun are all technology companies: Sina, Lenovo, UFIDA, Founder. Further, Zhongguancun is a high-technology development zone, so the fact that New Oriental, an educational company that focuses on English, is so profitable is a little embarrassing but eminently understandable.

Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University, and other famous universities, as well as national academies such as China Academy of Sciences and China Academy of Agricultural Sciences, are all located in Zhongguancun. The need for extracurricular education, such as that offered by New Oriental on nights and weekends, is one way to stay ahead at these education institutes.

Further, parents, with disposable income and no place to spend it, focus their financial might on singletons?the only children who have resulted from decades of the one-child, one-family policy. Singletons and New Oriental are another happy synergy, where children learn English and the school plies its wares.

Another level is migrants. Migrants come to Beijing, and to Zhongguancun in particular, for a variety of reasons. Mostly, it is to improve their lives, make some money to send back some, and become successful. One way to improve and succeed is to study English (or accounting). Hence, many migrants who are hesitant to spend their paltry pittances on consumer goods will instead opt for New Oriental hoping for a skill that will push them up and help them succeed.

All of these levels converge in Zhongguancun. Hence, despite the rise and fall of high-tech companies, the Internet wave, portals, and blogs, the one constant in Zhongguancun has been New Oriental. After so many years, a listing on the NYSE (and not tech-heavy Nasdaq) seems appropriate. New Oriental is reaching places that Sina and Lenovo perhaps cannot.

In any case, I welcome another Zhongguancun enterprise to the world.

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