The company that publishes The Economist has signed an agreement that will expand its advertising sales in Egypt and the Levant to help it weather the region's advertising recession. The Economist Group, which set up a dedicated Middle East sales office in Dubai last autumn, has entered a regional agreement with Gray Business Communications (GBC), the Dubai-based company that formerly handled its sales in the region. GBC will continue to handle Saudi sales in Riyadh, while also moving into Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. The move is partly an attempt to make up for losses in advertising revenue by moving into economies that were less affected by the global economic downturn. "We see Egypt as having a lot of potential, as do a lot of the economies along the seaboard," said Nick Mesquita, The Economist Group's group sales director for the Middle East and Africa. "For example, Lebanon has got very strong banks, and their regulation has kept a lot of things intact. And you've got a lot of companies in Egypt that are very large and saying, 'Now we can get out on a world stage and start promoting ourselves.'" Property advertising has seen a more than 60 per cent drop in advertising spending in the first quarter of this year, according to the Pan Arab Research Center. The drop was sharpest in the UAE, which saw a 14 per cent decline in total advertising spending. Africa has also helped sustain the company's advertising sales with its strong classified market. Classifieds make up a quarter of The Economist's advertising revenue, Mr Mesquita said. But the weakness in advertising has not been mirrored by circulation. After an advertising campaign in the UAE this year, The Economist has raised its circulation in the country by between 25 and 30 per cent, he said. "People talk about the number of people leaving Dubai but how can that be when our circulation there is up?" Regional circulation was also up 6 per cent in April compared with last year, bringing it to 29,000 copies, Mr Mesquita said. Unlike many of the newspaper's competitors, who keep their subscription fees low by heavily subsidising them with advertisements, charges a premium for a year's subscription: £153 (Dh856) in the UAE, and nearly $120 in the US. The high price means it does not suffer as much in times of weak advertising sales, Mr Mesquita said. But it is still working hard to protect itself from the downturn by diversifying. Last summer the new publisher, Andrew Rashbass, restructured the company for a more regional focus, while integrating its sales departments. Today the sales staff is urged to sell advertising and sponsorship deals across its brands, which include The Economist, Economist.com, Economist Intelligence Unit, Economist Conferences, Economist Corporate Network, The World In and Intelligent Life. Pearson, the British media group, owns a 50 per cent stake in The Economist Group through its subsidiary, The Financial Times Limited. firstname.lastname@example.org
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