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A Bearish Start To 2016

At Jan. 16 close, global equity markets had lost more than US$14 trillion or 20% in equity value from a June 2015 high.

Concerns over Chinese growth, currency moves and an all-time low for oil have spooked investors.

Investors and money managers are panicking amidst China’s moves to bolster its economy and stabilize its unpredictable stock market. Meanwhile, oil has plummeted to US$30 a barrel for the first time in 12 years.

As expected, media equities have borne the brunt.

All the media stock averages devised and tracked by Media Partners Asia (MPA) are in negative territory for the year, led by China. Hunan TV, Shenzhen Topway, Huayi Brothers, Beijing Gehua, Beijing Enlight Media and Shanghai Oriental Pearl suffered big losses.

At the same time, Australian and Indonesian media equities were hit, led by commercial free TV broadcaster Ten in Australia. Indonesia’s leading media company Global Mediacom also had a poor start to 2016.

Chinese authorities have responded to market volatility through various measures aimed at bringing in some stability ahead of the Lunar New Year.

The stability may not last long. Many question the logic of China managing its currency against a basket that has so many challenges as it takes in the US, Japan, Europe and most Asian markets.

“We see recent events in China as unanticipated transitional stages in the progression to a goal of having a freely floating exchange rate,” says Peter Hooper, chief economist with Deutsche Bank.

"Managing the value of the RMB against a basket of currencies implies a limitation on monetary policy independence that, we think, policymakers eventually will resolve by introducing further genuine flexibility," Hooper adds.

Big Sell-Offs

Funds continue to exit key markets across Asia, with emerging markets the worst off.

Emerging market funds have lost more than US$20 billion since July 2015, when emerging market currencies began to sharply depreciate. Asia ex-Japan funds, meanwhile, have lost close to US$30 billion.

The performance of media equity averages was generally uneven during 2015, impacted by large sell-offs in Asia after July in the wake of currency depreciation and macro slowdown.

Big media stocks in the US plummeted in August due to concerns over the impact of online video distribution.

India however, up more 22% for 2015, was a major exception, buoyed by positive sentiment on a new government and higher economic growth.

Notable winners last year included global SVOD giant Netflix and innovative Korean powerhouse CJ E&M.

M&A activity and the expansion of new digital platforms may help traditional media giants fend off investor concerns in 2016.

A Boost For Time Warner

Stock for movie and broadcast major Time Warner has gained ~10% year-to-date on more positive investor sentiment for its performance in 2016, as well as reports that CEO Jeff Bewkes may entertain a sale of the company. Apple and 21st Century Fox could be amongst the buyers.

Credit Suisse predicts a robust media rebound for 2016, highlighting Time Warner along with CBS and 21st Century Fox as some of its top picks.

Time Warner continues to try and offset the threat of Netflix as it looks to expand HBO Go and arm its pay channels with stacking rights - rights to full seasons of TV shows, which can help drive binge watching on cable & satellite platforms.

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