At the recent edition of Marmomacc, the world’s largest stone trade fair in Verona, Italy, show owner Veronafiere announced several global expansion initiatives. Among them, the organization has taken a majority share in two stone industry events in Brazil. The $3.5 million (2.7 million euro) operation involves the acquisition by VeronaFiere of 60% (with an option for 100%) of Milanez & Milaneze, the Brazilian company that operates South America’s two largest marble and granite exhibitions: Vitória Stone Fair and Cachoeiro Stone Fair, both in the stone-rich Espirito Santo State. A new company was established, Veronafiere do Brazil.

Additionally, Veronafiere’s best-known brands in the construction industry — Marmomacc and Samoter — are creating MS Africa & Middle East, The International Trade Fair for Stone Design, Technology, Earthmoving and Building Machinery. This new event will take place in Cairo, Egypt, from December 9 to 12, 2013, and it will be promoted by Veronafiere with Egyptian partner Art Line. The goal is to strengthen its internationalization and penetrate markets linked with building in North Africa and the Middle East.

Veronafiere is also taking the “Made in Italy” construction and natural stone sectors to Morocco, with the acquisition of a co-controlling 30% stake in Médinit Expo, the most important exhibition dedicated to the Moroccan marble-stone, construction, engineering and design sectors. The acquisition was made from Via Nuova an Italian company that has conceived and organized Médinit Expo since 2010, and it also involves an option for a further 21% stake in 2013. Médinit Expo is a pure B2B event exclusively for professionals, and the fourth edition of the exhibition is scheduled in Casablanca, Morocco, in October 2013.

These new initiatives join a number of existing Marmomacc-related events around the world: StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas in Las Vegas (in partnership with Hanley Wood Exhibitions), as well as Qatar Stonetech and Saudi Stone Tech in the Middle East (both co-organized by Veronafiere).

Recently, Stone World spoke with Claudio Solignani, Veronafiere’s Director of Strategic Planning, about its international strategy. “We understand that running an international trade event means more than attracting visitors and exhibitors from abroad; our role must also be to accompany our exhibitors into other markets. In the last years, we have been working to expand Marmomacc’s reach for its exhibitors,” he said, explaining that the plan is based upon three distinct “pillars.”

The first component of the plan is Marmomacc itself, which featured 1,450 companies exhibiting at the show in September of this year, 60% of which came from abroad, representing a total of 57 countries. Over 56,000 stone trade professionals attended, 52% from outside of Italy. The overall internationalization trend of Marmomacc, together with its world leadership, can also be seen in the number of countries represented among visitors, which increased from 132 to 140.

The second pillar is to give Veronafiere and its exhibitors a strong presence in markets with a high demand for stone.— specifically the U.S., which is covered by StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas, and the Middle East, which is covered by Qatar Stonetech and Saudi Stone Tech.

The third pillar is to give Veronafiere a strong position in leading nations for stone extraction and processing, such as Brazil. “Brazil provides a natural entrance for the U.S. market,” Solignani said. “The Vitória Stone Fair is crucial. We are working with the Brazilian organizers to understand what can be done in the future to increase American presence at the show.”

Solignani also said that a long-term goal is to bring more of the architecture and design community to the Vitória Stone Fair, an initiative that has become very successful at Marmomacc in Verona. “We are working with Milanez & Milaneze to add more initiatives to attract architects,” he said. “Adding a design component is a key value that Veronafiere can bring to a trade show. Marmomacc has become strong internationally — from quarry workers to designers — and we want to export this vision of the trade show to Brazil. This will be a key point in the future — to gain higher recognition with architects. The first focus of this will be the local community.”

Solignani stressed, however, that it will take some time to develop a program as influential as those taking place in Verona. “It took several years to create the Marmomacc designer programs,” he said. “There is much sensitivity to design, and we worked with Italian universities for quite some time to be successful. It is a long process. We of course want to improve it, but not everything will happen in the first year.”

Other goals for the Vitória Stone Fair are to add value and increase the overall quality of exhibits. “We will be working with Milanez & Milaneze for the next few years to improve the quality of their events, and we will work together on communication activities, such as marketing and advertising. When we are promoting Marmomacc in key exhibits all over the world, we are promoting a portfolio of opportunities.”

Speaking on the initiatives in Morocco and Egypt, Solignani described the acquisitions as “initial” steps for promotion in Africa. “They are smaller markets, but we believe that Africa will be an emerging market, and we want to be there when it emerges,” he said.

When asked about potential expansion into Asia, Solignani pointed to its Indian partnership — Veronafiere Lems India Private Ltd. — which will be holding the consumer exhibition, “Floors and Walls,” in Delhi in July of 2013. “This will help Veronafiere learn more about the market in India, and we are studying the market in China,” he said. “We are still very much at the early stages of this initiative.”