HK listing 'natural step' for rising star Hunan TV

Tapping international capital markets the way forward for aggressive operator

One of the mainland's most aggressive television operators, China Hunan Satellite Television, is considering spinning off part of its business for a Hong Kong listing.

'As our company grows, it is a natural step for us to seek an overseas listing to tap into international capital markets,' Hunan TV controller Ouyang Changlin said.

'This is part of the opening up of China's television industry and the central government is very supportive,' he added.

Businesses that could be considered for a listing included television programme production, a cable-television network, a cartoon channel, as well as advertising and distribution, Mr Ouyang said. It could also include assets from the parent company, Hunan Radio Film and Television Group.

Hunan TV's advertising agency business - Hunan TV & Broadcast Intermediary - is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, but such assets could also be included in a Hong Kong entity through corporate restructuring, Mr Ouyang said.

Hunan TV is also in talks with several foreign parties, including Tom Group and Tom Online, about partnerships to improve its business, such as expanding its cartoon channel through technology co-operation.

With up to 500 million children in the mainland, Mr Ouyang said a nationwide cartoon channel offered huge business opportunities if the company could develop well-known home-grown cartoon characters.

'It's not just the cartoon programmes but all the products that can be branded with the cartoon characters. The business potential is absolutely huge,' he said.

As part of its business expansion plan, Hunan TV opened a representative office in Hong Kong yesterday to compete for local advertising.

Hunan TV recorded 650 million yuan in advertising revenue last year and expects to surpass 850 million yuan this year - a 30 per cent increase - and is predicting revenue of more than one billion yuan next year.

Meanwhile, Mr Ouyang said the parent company had reached a framework agreement with Citic Guoan Group, a unit of state-owned China International Trust & Investment Corp, to buy three cable-television networks in Hunan as part of the provincial government's plan to consolidate the industry.

'Once we group all 17 networks in the province, we can create huge value for a provincial network and offer a wide range of value-added services through it,' he said.

He said Hunan TV was unable to proceed with the government's plan for digital television until after the cable networks had been consolidated.

Hunan TV aims to complete the digital switch by 2006.