ComScore is dissolving its unit in Beijing, its only mainland China office. All China operations will be wound down by the end of 2018.
China is not a corporate priority for ComScore at this stage, the company said while confirming the closure in response to queries from Campaign Asia-Pacific. While some new reports have suggested teams in Singapore and Japan would also be affected, ComScore stated that "there are no other reductions internationally or domestically, in APAC or anywhere else currently contemplated".
The China team's nine employees were notified last week, and will be laid off with effect from the end of January. They will not be redeployed to other markets. Of the staff being made redundant, one was on maternity leave. Two were only hired in October and November last year.
"After the end of 2018, China will not be reported individually, but will be accounted for in our WW and APAC roll-ups," Will Hodgman, executive vice president of international at ComScore, wrote in an internal memo obtained by Campaign China.
Existing clients in China, including Alibaba, Baidu, and most of the big media agencies, will be serviced until then. In 2019, after the wind-down process is completed, ComScore's Hong Kong team will serve China clients remotely. ComScore's partnership with CTR to enhance its panel expertise in mobile measurement will also stop.
The reason for the move was financial, wrote Hodgman in the memo. ComScore China has been in the red on an operating margin basis for "years", he wrote. "It was unlikely to turn around without substantially more investments, which would have put it further in the red for more years."
The China team, including Xinyu Huang (senior vice president and managing director of Greater China), Fang Cai (VP of sales), Harry Guo (senior director of market solutions), "left everything on the field" and "did everything they could to sell out of this economic maelstrom", Hodgman wrote.
ComScore has been struggling with a long re-examination of its finances after accounting issues emerged in 2016. The process has reportedly cost ComScore millions and caused "distractions". "Any company, public or private, going through a re-audit puts a strain on operations," stated the company's publicist.
Huang declined to comment and diverted enquries to ComScore's US headquarters and PR agency Sard Verbinnen & Co. He was one of the founding staff for ComScore China when it was launched in 2010, then left in 2012 and rejoined in 2015.
The competitive landscape in media measurement and analytics in China is fierce. ComScore has two product lines in China: traditional audience measurement, in which iResearch is the main rival, and advertising effectiveness, where AdMaster and Miaozhen are its competitors. Together, the three competitors command approximately 95% of the entire media-measurement market locally.
"China is one of the most innovative and competitive countries in the world," the company said in the statement provided to Campaign. "In so being, the country requires substantial investment, partnerships and patience." The biggest costs of sustaining the China operations were infrastructure and data, as well as the "challenging" legal and regulatory requirements often faced by foreign firms doing business in China.
The layoffs in China and earlier Australia, have contributed to an overall 10% global reduction in the company's workforce, according to published reports.