Chinese Entertainment Stocks Have Mixed Day Amid Economic Growth Concerns

A stock specialist on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange August 5, 2011 - H
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Shares of Huayi Bros. dropped on Monday, but the stock of Bona Film Group rose as the government is keen to expand the services sector and domestic consumption amid weaker fourth-quarter GDP growth.

Economic growth in China slowed slightly late last year, casting a rare shadow of concern over the world's second-largest economy and second-biggest movie market.

China's economy grew 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 7.8 percent in the third, after lower investment growth led to a cooling final quarter for the $9.4 trillion economy, according to data released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

Many economists expect the Chinese economy to slow further in the coming year. The Communist government is expected to double its efforts to transform its economy by promoting domestic consumption at the expense of exports and investment, and analysts expect the world's second-largest economy may lose further momentum this year.

Asian stocks declined on Monday, but entertainment stocks had a mixed day. While the overall figures for 2013 show the economy is slowing down, there were positives for the entertainment sector because the government is keen to expand the services sector and domestic consumption, both of which have a big role to play in TV and cinema.

The services sector is now bigger than the manufacturing sector. Its share of gross domestic product (GDP) rose to 46.1 percent, outstripping the manufacturing sector for the first time.

The stock of China's Bona Film Group rose on Monday, but Huayi Bros. shares dropped slightly.

Chinese box office revenue in 2013 came in at $3.6 billion (21.8 billion yuan), a rise of 28 percent on $2.81 billion in 2012, which fell slightly short of an expected take of $3.64 billion (22 billion yuan).

The shortfall is small, but people have become used to forecasts for the China market exceeding expectations.

At the same time, China's film business, in particular, is feeling the benefit of growth in the real estate market. Investment in property in China accelerated to 19.8 percent in 2013, a sign the booming market has resisted Beijing's sustained efforts to cool it down.

The real estate boom in China has seen shopping malls go up all over the country, in smaller third- and fourth-tier cities, as well as in the big cities. And in every mall: a shiny new digital cinema.

In 2013, China added 5,077 screens, bringing the total number of screens in the country to almost 18,200 -- quikcly catching up on the U.S.

However, looking ahead, the rate of construction is set to slow as cooling measures will eventually start to impact.

"Today’s GDP figures confirm that China’s economy slowed last quarter, with the monthly activity data showing that momentum was still slipping in December," the economic research group Capital Economics said in a note to clients. "With credit conditions likely to remain relatively tight, we expect investment spending and economic growth to slow further in 2014."

Other data released showed a strong performance in China, with retail sales growing 13.6 percent in December from a year earlier, while the amount of goods coming out of China's factory gates rose 9.7 percent.

"We maintain our view of "being optimistic and realistic," analysts at the investment bank, Barclays, wrote. They expect good progress in areas that should help the services sector, such as deregulation, fiscal and tax reform, financial sector development, services liberalization and rural-urban integration.