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Valley and Ventura County | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW /
LEO SMITH

U.S. Middleman for Chinese Firms Expands Its Global Role

January 20, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Officials of International Technologies Network of Thousand Oaks have a particular fondness for television tubes manufactured in China.

The firm, with an office in Beijing, was established three years ago as an intermediary in business deals between companies in China and those in the United States. Since then, ITN also has begun playing middleman in transactions between Chinese and European companies.

As such, the Ventura County partnership has signed separate agreements to sell television and video monitor tubes produced by two electronics firms in central China--Hua Fei Color Display Systems Co. of Nanjing and Lucky Goldstar Shanguang Electronic Group of Changsha.

Philips Electronics, a world leader in consumer electronics, owns a 55% share of the Hua Fei operation and Lucky Goldstar, a South Korean conglomerate, owns 51% of the Shanguang Electronic Group.

The sales agreements call for ITN to market the tubes to television manufacturers outside China, a role founders Shrikumar Nair and John Farid anticipate will expand rapidly in coming years.

"Korean manufacturing is strong in the [television tube] area, but in the last few years China has also developed expertise for television components," Nair said. "For the next two to five years, there will be a market for picture tubes from China--they have good manufacturing facilities and they are low-cost. And we believe we are well-positioned."

ITN is concentrating its monitor and television tube campaign on Eastern European markets. The company already has arranged for the sale of about 100,000 Hua Fei tubes to a Turkish buyer.

"Hua Fei has given us the rights to develop new plans in new markets, Eastern European markets--Turkey, Romania and Poland specifically," Nair said. "The company we sell to in Turkey sells to Germany and the U.K."

Nair, a native of India, works out of ITN's Thousand Oaks office. The America-born Farid is stationed in Beijing. Between them, Nair said, they are well-equipped to assist in transactions involving businesses based in China. The men have a combined 30 years of experience working in the Chinese business community, part of that time running a circuit-board manufacturing operation there.

Though ITN has branched out to include markets around the world, the firm's primary focus continues to be providing consulting, procurement and distribution services with U.S. companies doing business with Chinese firms.

"A lot of customers in the Western business community don't understand [Chinese business practices]," Nair said. "Though the Chinese like U.S. companies, they have not been so successful because of a cultural lack of understanding."

ITN receives a retainer for its services, with the bulk of its income coming at the conclusion of a project. The company currently is working with Minnesota-based Sheldahl Inc., a leading manufacturer of flexible printed circuits and other fabrications, to set up a manufacturing plant in China.

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