Satellites

Astro eyes acquisition in India, posts strong Q2 net profit

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MUMBAI: Astro All Asia Networks Plc has identified India and China as its potential high-growth markets. And the route it wants to take is equity participation in local ventures.

"We intend to invest and grow our multi-media distribution platforms and content assets -- particularly in the key Bahasa, Indian, and Chinese language speaking markets where we hope to consummate joint-ventures with key players across the region in the coming months. We are confident that these major investments, underpinned by our strong balance sheet and robust cash flows from our Malaysian operations, will secure our long term future, and importantly, sustain revenues, profitability and cash flow growth for shareholders in the medium and long term," Astro Group chief executive officier Ralph Marshall wrote yesterday to the company's shareholders.

The company is scouting for equity participation in joint venture with local partners in these large under-penetrated markets, Marshall said. In India, Astro has, along with NDTV and infotech company Value Labs, already bought out Radio Today's FM radio operations under Red FM brand.

"Following liberalisation of the radio sector by the Indian Government, we are hopeful of making new investments and thereby participate in further growth of the radio broadcasting sector in the country," Marshall said.

In China, an Astro joint venture has secured approval and a 25-year licence to offer advertising services in the country. The joint-venture, with Hangzhou-based Tiansheng Culture Media Ltd, will initially provide marketing and airtime management services to seven radio stations in Zhejiang Province, and subsequently expand its services to other media companies, particularly in the TV broadcasting segment, in other territories across China.

Astro, meanwhile, has reported a 66 per cent increase in net profit to RM 73.04 million for its second quarter ended 31 July 2006, from RM 44 million a year ago. This was on back of the Fifa World Cup and a strong demand for its pay-TV and advertising services in the period, the company said.

Revenue rose 14 per cent to RM 569.08 million from RM 499.32 million while earnings per share was 3.79 sen from 2.29 sen.

During the period under review, the Group has generated free cash of RM 162.6 million. "Taking advantage of the strong financial position, the Group repaid most of its bank borrowings in January this year, and secured access to fresh long-term capital funds totalling USD 300 million on more attractive terms," Astro said in a release.

Having recently launched seven channels, Astro plans to add more and has RM 2 billion to fund its expansion plans.

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