In recent years, China has provided more and more support for state-owned enterprises it has deemed necessary to "national security." A communist country with a quasi-market economy, China is truly a budding force in the stratosphere of international trade. However, as a newcomer to the game, it has experienced growing pains, at times insecurity, and now, some seriously new ambitions.
From Shanghai, plans have been reported that China wants to spend billions of dollars in the next few years to build media and entertainment companies similar to News Corp.
A change in sentiment
According to Yu Guoming, the dean of the journalism school at Renmin University in Beijing, China's government "feels it has major problems communicating with the West." He also says that "they need new channels of communication, with more balance and diverse views than in existing Chinese media. They are aware the old methods of propaganda won't work." The government hopes that improving its methods of global presentation will improve the country's image overseas -- apparently part of its new strategy to use "soft power" rather than the historically blatant illustrations of military excess. So that's what seems to be behind the push for new media enterprises. Regardless, if China actually acts on its stated plan to spend billions of dollars, then it will present lots of opportunities for both domestic and international investors.
The devil is in the details
Not so fast -- this is China, remember. Although the country wants to allow private and foreign companies to invest in everything from music to dance and opera, it wants to do so through its state-owned enterprises. Vivek Couto, director of a Hong Kong-based research firm, says "this is not an invitation for stakes by international companies." However, it "may be an invitation for private equity and foreign capital to do more." OK, so it looks as though China is willing to take baby steps. Not necessarily the relaxation of rules that international companies were hoping for, but it's certainly better than nothing.
What have you done for me lately?
One of the first companies to benefit is Shanghai Media Group. The government recently gave the group permission to reorganize its operations and issue stock to the public. The company already has partnerships with American organizations like News Corp., Viacom, and General Electric's
Worth noting is that Live Nation
Still, a lurking suspicion
Questions definitely remain about China's ability to ease its rigid control over the media and entertainment industry, especially with regard to newspapers and news television. But with an estimated $4.7 billion to $6.6 billion waiting on the sidelines to sustain a push toward a new media empire, this is a plan worth watching. According to The New York Times, "several American companies said they were studying new Chinese rules." The question doesn’t seem to be whether some of the biggest U.S. companies will try to take advantage of China's new ambitions, but which companies will be most successful.
Would you invest in a newly listed Chinese media stock? If not, which U.S.-listed companies do you think are best positioned to take advantage of this huge stimulus? Leave comments below!