Turbulent market hits Asian media stocks

Drop could weigh heavily on companies' planned IPOs

HONG KONG -- The financial tsunami that hit Wall Street on Monday spilled over a day later in Asia, where markets in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong reopened after a holiday to see media stocks hammered in what analysts say is the beginning of a tough six months ahead.

In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index dropped 5% to a three-year low, down 605.04 points to close at 11,609.72. The South Korean Kospi index tumbled 6.1%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed down 5.4% at 18,300, its lowest this year.

"As Asia has reached the peak of macro-economic stability, there has been a slowdown of economic activities in the region, and the slowdown evident in some markets will intensify next year," said Vivek Couto, executive director of Hong-Kong Media Partners Asia.

The future could be gloomy for Asian media companies seeking capital, including those hoping to launch initial public offerings at home -- like production and distribution firms Huayi Brothers and the China Film Group -- and abroad, like Hong Kong computer-animation rising star Imagi International, maker of last year's "TMNT."

Hong Kong shares of Imagi, which has raised $30 million through two separate offerings in the past few weeks, fell 2% on Tuesday to close at HKD0.50 (6 cents). The drop extended losses begun before its recent offerings. The company's shares have lost 11.9% of their value since an Aug. 29 peak of HKD0.65.

On Tuesday, Imagi revealed the second of its recent investors, Mehta-Imagi, which now holds 16.8% of the firm, which is remaking the Japanese animation classic "Astro Boy."

Also in Hong Kong, shares of Tom Group -- owner of China Entertainment Television and Warners Bros.' online media partner in China -- fell 4.71% to close at HKD0.41 (5 cents).

In Tokyo, shares of Fuji Television Networks, the country's No. 1 TV network, dropped 1.4% to finish at 147,100 yen ($1,392).

In Seoul, shares of LG Electronics, the Korean flat-screen and handset giant whose hardware delivers entertainment content to the world's most wired nation, tumbled 9.2% to close at 89,400 won ($77.09).

Asian losses followed the sharpest declines in U.S. markets since 2001, triggered by the bankruptcy of investment house Lehman Bros. and the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America.

Before the latest fall, analysts said they expected to see 10%-15% growth in 2009 in media markets in China and India, Asia's rising stars. Now, Couto said, "It is yet to be seen whether that is sustainable (because) the visibility is really tough at the moment."

Although India's Bombay Stock Exchange posted a broad rebound from losses experienced Monday (when it was the largest Asian market open), shares of Indian media shares continued down.

Shares of Adlabs Films, the owner of India's largest cinema chain, closed down 3.3%, falling to 424.80 rupees ($9.06). This drop extended a near 10% loss Monday, triggered in part by a five-bomb blast Saturday in New Delhi that closed cinemas and ate into weekend boxoffice revenue.

Eros, the largest purveyor of Indian films overseas, lost 1% on Tuesday on the London Stock Exchange, continuing a 7.9% slide begun Monday.

On Tuesday, Asian media companies listed on the Nasdaq also lost value. Shares of Shanghai-based online gaming company Shanda Interactive fell 2.5% in early action before rallying to finish up 3.6% to $27.23, while the stock of leading Web news portal Sina.com lost 2.2% to $37.75.

Jonathan Landreth in New York contributed to this report.