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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Adex Data Point South

1Q09 adex data point south. Although total gross adex for Jan-Mar 09 shrank
3.9%, it was better than the 20% contraction seen after the 1997-8 Asian financial
crisis. The worst performer was the newspaper segment which saw a 9% decline
compared with a 3.7% growth for TV adex. But ad volume visibility extends only 2-3
months out, leaving question marks over advertising commitments for 2H09.
• Downbeat expectations. The lacklustre adex showing in Jan-Mar 09 ties in with
the 1Q09 results reported by Media Prima and NSTP. It also confirmed the
generally bearish expectations of the media companies since the beginning of the
year, with a few being taken by surprise by the magnitude of the deceleration. Our
previous 2009 projection of an adex range of 1.1% contraction to 6% growth does
not hold and we now revise it to 6-10% adex contraction.
• Newspapers at risk. Fundamental risks could be more severe for newspaper
companies as newspaper adspend continues to take a hit from depressed GDP
data. Although there are signs of resilience in the Malay newspaper segment, this
does not mean total immunity against the potential worsening of adex volume in the
coming months. The top Malay newspaper NST’s Harian Metro is the main winner
but this is not expected to help the group much given that Harian Metro is a small
contributor.
• Indicators leading at inflection point? We concur with our economic research
team’s view that the CLI could hit the trough in Jun-Aug 09 and that the economic
recovery from the trough is likely to take at least 12 months given the severity of the
current global crisis. Advertisers should reposition their spending for a gradual
recovery from 2010. Historical trends suggest that adex in Malaysia should recover
in 1Q2010 based on a 3-6 months’ lag period.
• End-2009 a good potential entry point. We believe end-09 will be a good re-entry
point for exposure to selected media stocks as positives such as earnings visibility,
improved sentiment of advertisers, cheaper newsprint and gradual economic
recovery are likely to kick in as catalysts then. We will monitor closely the situation
on the ground and official stats but so far, adex for the months ahead appears to be
southbound. The share prices of media companies have recovered somewhat since
the start of the year and we fail to see any additional near-term re-rating catalysts.
• Staying NEUTRAL on media sector for now. In view of this, we maintain our
NEUTRAL stance on the media sector but recommend investors to switch to Astro
(Trading Buy) which has very little exposure to adex and minimal downside risks to
its Malaysian operations where the subscriber trend could turn out to be resilient.
We remain NEUTRAL on Media Prima (MPR MK), Star Publications (STAR MK)
and Media Chinese International (MCIL MK). NSTP is kept as an
UNDERPERFORM

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