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MCH Group has launched a new Basel-based trade fair, HourUniverse, to replace the now-defunct Baselworld.
MCH Group has launched a new Basel-based trade fair, HourUniverse, to replace the now-defunct Baselworld.

Baselworld organiser announces replacement show for 2021; Murdoch group plans takeover

Following an extended consultation with exhibitors and attendees, MCH Group has announced a new show and digital platform to replace the now-defunct Baselworld, which it has named HourUniverse.

Described as a “B2B2C meeting point that places the customer at the heart of its focus”, HourUniverse will combine an annual show – scheduled to coincide with Watches & Wonders Geneva and the unnamed Rolex-led event in April 2021 – with a year-round digital community that “encourages exchanges, information-sharing, content creation, reflection through talks and conferences that also provide visibility for brands and their products”.

"While there was initial speculation the Baselworld replacement would move to Geneva, to better co-ordinate with the other two Swiss watch events, MCH Group has confirmed HourUniverse will still take place in the city of Basel"

An MCH Group statement explained, “The entire platform is thought out and designed around the customer. This applies to all players of the distribution chain, traditional and online retailers, including those of the CPO (certified pre-owned).”

The new focus echoes the consumer-oriented approach of Watches & Wonders Geneva, formerly the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH).

No exhibitors have been confirmed, however Baselworld management had previously confirmed the return of 30 technical exhibitors to the 2020 show and placed a new focus on attracting more gem and jewellery brands.

In its statement, MCH Group noted, “The [HourUniverse] platform will build an extended ecosystem with watch, jewellery and gemstone brands, developers of new solutions in distribution, marketing and points of sale, and other players of the industry.”

While dates have yet to be finalised, a late-April schedule could be disrupted by the Japanese holiday, Golden Week, which runs from 29 April–5 May in 2021. The festive period led long-standing Japanese exhibitors Seiko and Casio to pull out of the scheduled 2020 show.

While there was initial speculation the Baselworld replacement would move to Geneva, to better co-ordinate with the other two Swiss watch events, MCH Group has confirmed HourUniverse will still take place in the city of Basel.

Seemingly addressing long-standing criticism of the city’s expensive accommodation, food, and transport, the HourUniverse website notes that “a new hospitality concept based on fair prices and supported by the local hotel industry will be an integral part of HourUniverse”.

Murdoch company to take control of MCH Group

The HourUniverse announcement comes at a critical time for MCH Group, which is facing dire financial consequences due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christian Jecker, head of corporate communications and investor relations MCH Group
Christian Jecker, head of corporate communications and investor relations MCH Group
"Financial restructuring measures are now indispensable to secure the group’s survival"
Christian Jecker, MCH Group

A recent financial report indicated that MCH-operated exhibitions accounted for 55.6 per cent of revenue, ‘live marketing solutions’ (events and marketing consultancy) for 38.3 per cent, and the remaining 6.1 per cent from use of its venues by third parties.

All three have been devastated by the pandemic.

However, the company’s financial problems pre-date the virus, with its operating income declining 5.8 per cent between 2013 and 2019. Its largest year-to-year fall occurred between 2018 and 2019, when it lost CHF77.61 million ($AU127.8 million); Baselworld in particular produced diminishing returns, with MCH Group’s operating income from 1 January–30 June 2019, the period in which Baselworld is held, 23.7 per cent below the figure for the same period in 2018.

In a statement posted on the MCH Group website on 18 July, Christian Jecker, head of corporate communications and investor relations MCH Group, said, “Financial restructuring measures are now indispensable to secure the group’s survival.”

Jecker indicated that the Board of Directors had accepted an offer from Lupa Systems – an investment firm whose founder and CEO is James Murdoch, son of media magnate Rupert Murdoch – to acquire a majority stake in the company, estimated at 30–44 per cent, for CHF10.50 per share.

In May 2017, MCH Group’s shares were trading at CHF81.50.

The Lupa Systems offer includes a 15-year agreement to continue holding “trade fairs, exhibitions and other events” at MCH Group’s Basel and Zürich venues, and that Art Basel will also take place in Basel.

Canton Basel-Stadt (the city of Basel) is currently MCH Group’s largest shareholder, controlling 33.5 per cent, while three other Swiss cantons control a further 15.5 per cent of the company.

Jecker urged shareholders to approve the deal at an extraordinary general meeting, which will be held on 3 August.

He also confirmed the Board of Directors had rejected a rival takeover bid from an investor consortium, which would have split the company by selling off its Art Basel and Live Marketing Solutions divisions. In June, Swiss business publication Finanz Und Wirtschaft reported that financier Annette Schömmel was planning a CHF350 million ($AU532.1 million) deal to acquire 70 percent of MCH Group, including Art Basel.

 

More reading:
The rise and fall of Baselworld: A complete timeline
Baselworld to change name, format and location in 2021
EXCLUSIVE: Baselworld managing director responds to second cancellation

 











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