Business / Markets

Forerunners show newcomers the way to market

By Jiang Xueqing (China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-07 10:54

The forerunners of the current media reform began to engage with the stock market long before launched its IPO. In 2001, Beijing Media Corp was founded by Beijing Youth Daily primarily to sell advertising space and produce newspapers. Three years later, it listed in Hong Kong, with Beijing Youth Daily as its controlling shareholder, raising about HK$1.04 billion ($134 million).

At that time, the management team at Beijing Youth Daily expected the paper to experience cross-media, cross-industry and cross-regional development. To achieve that goal, they required a large amount of capital. However, at the time State-owned media in China were not allowed to list on the stock market to raise funds for development. So the team decided to solve the problem by forming a company to launch an IPO, said Zhang Yanping, chairman of Beijing Media Corp and president of Beijing Youth Daily.

As a result, Beijing Media Corp was founded. The company was only involved with the management of the paper, while the editing section was an entirely separate entity.

"This model has a disadvantage in that it causes conflict between the editing and management when their interests do not go hand in hand," said Zhang. "It raised a lot of administrative problems and affected development on both sides."

Although the model is not perfect, it set a foundation for the development of Beijing Youth Daily, which was transformed from a newspaper into a media group. Today, the media group has four daily and six weekly newspapers, six magazines, two websites and 13 subsidiaries. The business has gained tremendous benefits since listing.

For example, in 2003, Beijing Youth Daily acquired a paper and turned it into Legal Evening News, which became popular among Beijingers. During the process, the media group invested nearly 300 million yuan ($47.6 million).

"If we had not launched the IPO, it's likely that we would only be able to run Legal Evening News through funding from Beijing Youth Daily," said Zhang.

Despite its dramatic development, Beijing Media Corp's market performance has not been as impressive as some early investors had anticipated. Its shares closed at HK$5.84 on Friday, far below the issue price of HK$18.95. Compared with 2000, the corporation's total revenue dropped by 1.55 percent to 757.6 million yuan in 2011, while gross profit slipped almost 23 percent to 110.75 million.

The corporation's poor performance is in line with the decline of traditional media, according to Gao Hui, a media researcher of Guotai Junan Securities Co, and he noted that the newspaper industry in general now has a more limited ability to generate profits.

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