CEBIT exhibitors numbers down 26%

CEBIT, Europe's largest IT fair, Cebit, will see its lowest number of exhibitors in a decade as companies slash marketing expenditures due to the global recession.

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CEBIT, Europe's largest IT fair, Cebit, will see its lowest number of exhibitors in a decade as companies slash marketing expenditures due to the global recession.

Deutsche Messe, which runs the event, is expecting 4,300 companies from 69 nations. That's down more than 26 percent from 2008, when 5,845 companies participated.

The figures mark a significant downturn for the show, which uses aircraft-hanger size halls on enormous fairgrounds in Hanover. In 2006, Cebit had 6,262 exhibitors and in 2001 had as many as 8,000 exhibitors. The show runs from March 3 through March 8.

The largest decline in attendance is from vendors in China, Taiwan and South Korea, said Sven Prüser, senior vice president for Deutsche Messe who is responsible for Cebit events worldwide.

"A lot of these smaller companies have closed down," Prüser said.

Cebit has also been affected by competing European trade shows such as Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA), a consumer electronics show held in Berlin in August, and Mobile World Congress, formerly 3GSM, the world's largest show focused on mobile communications now held in Barcelona in February.

In recent years, Deutsche Messe has sought to portray Cebit as business-focused rather than consumer. The show has in past years drawn as many as 200,000 visitors in the first three days or so, mostly Germans. So far this year, preregistrations by journalists and visitors have been about the same as last year, Prüser said.

Deutsche Messe says the number of exhibitors present is still remarkable considering the tech industry has been hit hard by waves of layoffs, mediocre financial results and slowing demand for enterprise software and consumer products.

Deutsche Messe said about 300 companies are returning to the trade show after missing some previous events and of the 4,300 companies exhibiting, 200 are new this year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will open the show once again on tonight (2 March), and other notable people will be on the scene during the show.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will visit on Tuesday as part of a "Partner State California" display in Hall 6, highlighting U.S. companies and technology. In past years, Cebit had put a spotlight on countries such as France or Russia, and its the first time a U.S. state has been substituted for a country, Prüser said.

A key theme of Cebit this year will be so-called Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogging, social networking, unified communications and cloud computing, in Hall 6 under the theme "Webciety." Also, Cebit will have a green IT section that's five times larger than last year, showing the growing interest by companies in reducing energy costs, Prüser said.