UPDATE: Exhibitions to merge into mega-event

Australian Exhibition Services and Key3Media, have formed an $8 million joint venture, consolidating the staging of trade spectacles Comdex and NetWorld+Interop, with former AES competitor event IT2001.

The event marketers hold a fifty-fifty stake in the venture.

At this stage, the joint venture has not received any other local or overseas investment, executives from both companies revealed yesterday, although Key3Media, formerly Ziff Davis Events, may float.

The joint expos will draw revenue from high-end internetworking, telecommunications, channel and SME vendors, said Nadine McNamara, a Key3Media spokeswoman. However, neither AES or Key3Media wished to share expected earnings for the first round of shows.

Also, both sides denied that they risked halving any ensuing profit by staging the shows jointly. "Both companies come out of this winners," Robert Irving, marketing director of Key3Media, insisted. "Let the market decide," Irving and his managing director, Alex Feher, said in unison.

Joint management of the shows will prove cheaper for exhibitors, said Feher. He "doubts" that any vendors will exhibit at both N+I and Comdex, and IT2001.

In light of this concession, the venture received the backing of long-time exhibitor Telstra, according to Noel Gray, general manager of AES. "Telstra thinks highly of both events," Gray said. "It would not make sense for Telstra's exhibition to be account-managed by two separate companies. (Telstra) would like one point of contact, so we'll be serving the customers better -- that's one reason why the joint venture was formed."

120 vendors will exhibit at NetWorld+Interop and 250 at IT2001/Comdex, the companies said. They expect to attract 18,000 people to the former and 30,000 to the latter -- including overlap -- 35,000 of which will be buyers.

Key3Media and AES executives engaged in heated debate with journalists at Wednesday's briefing who suggested that business and consumer interest in technology conferences was "dying" due to a time-poor working culture.

"IT events are getting more and more prolific," Irving argued. "This is show business. It's a great spectacle. People will want to keep coming."

Gray added: "AES events attract three times more visitors than any other IT event."

Moreover, the partners expect to stage N+I/Comdex three times in 2001. The bundled show will hit Darling Harbour next March, followed by Melbourne and Brisbane later in the year.

Feher is confident that all three will be successful. "Melbourne and Brisbane will be small, but a starting point," he conceded. Feher would not release figures on vendor bookings for the interstate shows.

Already, a PR firm has won the joint venture account, though the executives declined to name the victor.

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