The number of exhibitors at the world's biggest high-tech fair, the CeBIT, will be down around three percent this year as the tech industry recovers only slowly from a global slump, organisers said Monday.
In total, 4,157 companies from 68 countries are expected to display their latest gadgets at the fair in Hanover, northern Germany, down from just under 4,300 last year, the event's host, Deutsche Messe, said in a statement.
Numbers have dropped steadily from the height of the dot-com boom in 2001, when more than 8,000 firms sought to showcase their wares at the annual event, which this year runs March 2 to 6.
Last year, exhibitor numbers plunged by a quarter and visitor numbers by a fifth as the fair lost ground to rival shows in the United States and in Spain.
However, Ernst Raue, a Deutsche Messe board member, remained upbeat.
"The CeBIT has come at just the right time," he said. "In certain parts of the technology industry, the mood is brightening, because the investment freeze from the past 18 months is just beginning to thaw."
"The industry still has to grapple with the financial crisis, of course, but the attraction of the CeBIT remains as strong as ever."
Companies that suspended projects in 2008 and 2009 due to the credit crunch are bringing them back off the ice as the economic climate warms, Raue said.
"That will become clear at the CeBIT," he added.
In addition, about 300 firms, including US Internet giant Google, will be exhibiting at the fair for the first time.
Among the key topics this year are: countering climate change through the smart use of IT and revolutionising the music industry through technology.
The fair will be opened on the evening of March 1 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country is this year's "partner nation" at CeBIT and current European Union president.