Asia future 'Sky' high, panel says

Region's consumers still largely untapped, exec states

HONG KONG -- Executives at Wednesday's "The Sky Has NOT Fallen" panel here told broadcasters just that, exuding confidence in the prospects for Asian media investment despite the global financial crisis.

"Ten percent growth is growth," PricewaterhouseCoopers' Marcel Fenez said, referring to regional growth recorded over the past year.

Fenez, who also serves as chairman of panel sponsor the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, and his fellow panelists remained optimistic, pointing to the liquidity of Asian capital markets.

Looking on the bright side, panelists said the crisis could help check breakneck growth in China and Southeast Asia, which has raised concerns about escalating inflation. They also suggested it could cause dealmakers to refocus lax attention on business fundamentals when writing new contracts.

"This is a good time for correction," said Jeanette Chan, a partner at the international law firm of Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. "For the last few years, there has been a mad rush to execute. Companies were doing deals for the sake of doing deals."

Fenez reminded the audience that Asian media consumers remain a largely untapped demographic.

"In the developed world, consumers spend 6% of their income on media; Asian consumers spend only 3%. So there is clearly still room for growth," Fenez said.

Chris Halpin, director of Providence Equity Asia, forecast healthy market consolidation five years out as the result of the current crisis. "There will be higher penetration of bigger companies in Southeast Asia," Halpin said.