Asian Media: Cheeriness at CASBAA Amid the Crisis
Oct 29, 2008
Anyone eager for a little cheeriness amid the financial maelstrom would have found a relatively high level of optimism at this morning’s panel on media investment at the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia convention.
Moderated by May Lee of Lotus Media House, the panelists fought the perception that Asia and the world are sinking.
Chris Halpin, Director Providence Equity
How does it look out there?
When we look across the landscape now, there is tremendous value. We went from a situation where capital was plentiful to one where it is more valuable. That is good for us.
Where are things looking good in Asian media?
Advertising companies in China. Common wisdom used to be that these companies were all going to the moon, so they became way too expensive. Air Media and Focus Media are now trading below any sense of their fundamental value. Given the macro picture in China, things are looking particularly good. In just 18 months China has gone from a momentum play to a value play. In Southeast Asia, we are very big believers in growth of middle class driving up the value of media. We were more worried about inflation.
This is a moment in time when it is hard to have a view on value, with markets going up and down by 14 percent in a day. Investment will have to come from funds like Providence Equity or sovereign funds.
When you go out in Asia, people are still spending and investing. There are real opportunities when you get out of the panic in money centers like Hong Kong and go to meet real operators. The level of consumer loan leverage in Asia is nothing compared to Europe and the US. There is not a need for consumers in Asia to de-leverage.
Marcel Fenez, global managing partner, Entertainment and Media practice
What is happening out there?
For a long time there was an oversupply of cash, driving up the price of assets. Asset prices our now dropping, which creates new opportunities.
Where are the deals to be done?
There were a lot of hasty deals done in the last few years. Some of those deals might be worth looking at right now. They were based on business plans that don’t work right now and may unravel. Hedge funds are likely looking to close out their positions, so there are bargains out there.
Whatever headline writers like to put on their stories, there is still growth in this region. Headline writers please take note: 10 percent growth is still growth. In most of world, consumers spend 6 percent of their disposable income on media. In Asia, that figure is still only 3 percent, so there is plenty of room to grow.
Jeanette Chan, partner Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison
What is happening?
We still see deals being done and it is a good time for a correction. Deals were getting done so quickly that it is good to have a breather.
Where to look for deals?
Check out who had pre-IPO convertible bonds. The listings likely won’t happen and the capital calls at hedge funds might force people to sell. This is happening in Taiwan where regulations are less stringent. This downturn will also spur governments to relax regulations to increase opportunities. Korea just announced they will allow media cross-ownership. Taiwan is looking to see what ways they can encourage the media sector.
Who else benefits from the present situation?
This is also a good time for media companies themselves to go out and find companies that could provide useful technology.