Huayi Brothers Media reports 23% profit jump

First publicly-listed Chinese studio up on TV drama sales

HONG KONG — The first major Chinese film studio to list on a stock exchange said Thursday its net profit surged 23 percent to nearly 84 million Chinese yuan ($12.3 million) in 2009, thanks to thriving TV drama sales.

In its first annual report since going public on the small enterprise board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in October, Huayi Brothers Media Corp. reported operating profit of 604 million yuan ($88.5 million), a 48 percent increase from 2008.

"The growth of these indicators can be mainly attributed to the healthy development of the company's main businesses, the expansion of the market, especially the rapid growth of our TV drama business," the report said.

Armed from the proceeds of its initial public offering — it raised 1.1 billion yuan ($161 million) — Huayi Brothers said it plans to get into the movie theater business by opening six to eight properties this year. It also wants to expand into TV variety shows, video games and life performances, as well as sign more top producers, directors and stars.

The studio said it plans to release eight movies this year. Among the major projects, its Chinese-language adaptation of the hit Disney film "High School Musical" and the Feng Xiaogang disaster movie "Aftershock," are scheduled to hit theaters in the summer, while its kung fu flick "Shaolin," starring Jackie Chan and Andy Lau, is due out at the end of the year.

The company said it will launch 16 TV drama series that combine for a total of 495 episodes.

Huayi Brothers said it derived 201 million yuan ($29.4 million) of its operating income from movies, 280 million yuan ($41 million) from TV sales and 124 million yuan ($18.2 million) from artist management.

While still small compared to the U.S., the Chinese boxoffice is growing rapidly, surging 44 percent to 6.2 billion yuan ($908 million) in 2009.

Other studios are eyeing public offerings as the industry expands. China's leading state-owned studio, China Film Group, hopes to list in Shanghai by the end of the year, one of its executives said in February. Beijing Polybona Film Distribution Co. hopes to list on the New York Stock Exchange this year or next, its chief executive said in November.