A leading mainland magazine publisher yesterday confirmed it was holding talks with Internet and media firm Tom.com in a move to help the latter expand its print business into China. The president of SDX Joint Publishing, Dong Xiuyu, confirmed reports that Tom.com was interested in acquiring the popular San Lian Shenghuo weekly, but said there was more than one potential buyer. A Tom.com spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday. Ms Dong is responsible for four periodicals, including San Lian Shenghou, which has a circulation of 200,000. She also has plans to launch another title. 'I hope to bundle all the titles to form a consolidated publishing flagship, instead of selling one single magazine title.' Despite stringent government controls over the media, she believed a foreign buyer could effectively take up a stake in the company by injecting funding into advertising and distribution. Speaking at a conference yesterday on opportunities in the media industry following China's World Trade Organisation entry, Ms Dong estimated that more than half the country's 576 publishers received non-state funding, despite Beijing's tight grip on the sector. She said there were a number of ways for the public and foreign players to participate in the market. Examples were project co-operation, content-licensing agreements, joint ventures and even back-door listings, adding that the fledging sector was desperately in need of funds to grow. Ms Dong said it would be safer to outsource advertising and distribution to an investor, but retain editorial independence. She said the periodical/magazine sector was still in its infancy compared with other media, adding that although there were more than 8,000 periodicals in the market, only a quarter were able to post a profit. 'There are too many small players and the publications are relying more on circulation sales than advertising dollars.' In the book-publishing sector, Ms Dong estimated there was an output of more than 150,000 titles last year. Textbooks, which accounted for just 6 per cent of the total, generated about 60 per cent of revenue and 80 per cent of profits. 'It tells us that publishing is not a huge profit-making business,' she said, blaming low unit prices and limited quantities. She said the mainland publishing industry generated gross sales of 37.7 billion yuan (about HK$35.3 billion) last year, but 70 per cent of the revenue went to state-owned bookstores. China has pledged to open its retail and wholesale markets for books and periodicals, as well as video distribution, within three years. Separately, business weekly 21st Century Business Herald is in talks to acquire three publications, according to managing director Liu Xiowin. The magazine, which was launched in January last year, has a national circulation of 400,000. Mr Liu said it had originally aimed at breaking even in July this year, but the possible acquisition would lengthen the timetable for positive cash flow.