APT looks to Beijing for satellite boost

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2011, 12:00am


APT Satellite Holdings, which provides satellite transponder, communications and broadcast services in the Asia-Pacific region, sees big potential for its services on the mainland if Beijing permits more television stations to broadcast their programmes by satellite.

So far, only one TV station in each of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities can broadcast by satellite.

Cheng Guangren, president of APT Satellite, hopes for a change in the limited broadcasting regime, but admits it may not be in the offing any time soon.

'Economically developed provinces, for example Guangdong, might support more than 100 TV stations,' Cheng said: 'But at the moment only one broadcasts by satellite.'

Simon Twiston Davies, CEO of the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), said there was 'a huge amount of opportunity in Beijing for satellite services'.

The immediate beneficiaries of a policy change allowing more providers would be domestic satellite operators, such as state-controlled China Satellite Communications Co, he added.

Tai Po-based APT will launch its Apstar 7 satellite into space in March next year to replace Apstar 2, which is due to retire at the end of next year.

The company currently operates five satellites. A satellite costs between US$250 million and US$280 million, including its purchase and launch. 'Up to 13 per cent of the cost is buying launch insurance,' said Cheng. 'This is the most risky part and costs more than US$20 million.'

APT said competition in its industry was fierce at the moment. But looking further ahead, Twiston Davies said the industry was poised to experience robust growth.

'We have a strong economy in the Asia Pacific. We have increasing demand for the use of radio services and media and we have a young demographic.'

About 60 per cent of all satellite operator revenues in Asia are generated by TV distribution, according to CASBAA, and the financial crisis since 2008 has helped the satellite industry as people were spending more time at home watching TV.

China at the moment does not permit individual access via roof-top satellite dishes to satellite TV broadcasts. Instead, officially-installed satellite dishes are used to relay programmes via cable to homes.

But according to Twiston Davies change may be under consideration.

'There are a number of dishes that have been distributed to villages in the rural areas in order to deliver satellite TV,' he said.

Shares in the Hong Kong-listed company fell 0.63 per cent on Friday, closing at HK$1.57, while the benchmark Hang Seng Index dropped 0.86 per cent.