New $130 million China film and TV fund launched in Singapore

The cast and crew of the award-winning film Blind Massage before its premiere at a cinema in Beijing. The first non-yuan-denominated fund dedicated to investments in China's media entertainment industry, valued at $130 million, was launched yesterday
The cast and crew of the award-winning film Blind Massage before its premiere at a cinema in Beijing. The first non-yuan-denominated fund dedicated to investments in China's media entertainment industry, valued at $130 million, was launched yesterday at the Singapore Media Festival. -- PHOTO: AFP

A US$100 million (S$130 million) Singapore-based fund for investments in China's media and entertainment industry was launched on Dec 10.

This is the first fund outside of China, and the first non-renminbi denominated fund, dedicated to investments in the country's media and entertainment. It was launched by China's Bona Film, Singapore's Tembusu Partners and Singaporean media entrepreneur Calvin Cheng, at the ongoing Singapore Media Festival.

Also present were Mr Yu Dong, founder and chairman of Nasdaq­listed Bona Film Group, China's leading film distributor, and Mr Andy Lim, founder and chairman of private equity fund manager Tembusu Partners.

Mr Yu said that the fund would invest in anything to do with the media industry, not just film and TV, but also games, theme parks and new opportunities brought about by the development of the China film industry.

The fund will be formalised on March 31 (2015), with fundraising to begin shortly after. Anchor investors are likely to include Bona Film Group as well as Thailand's multi-industry conglomerate Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group.

Asked how such a fund would benefit the local industry, Mr Lim said: "There would be many opportunities for Singapore companies who want to make a foray into China, but of course, they all have to be competitive."

Mr Cheng said: "The existing film and TV co-production agreement between Singapore and China opens up opportunities for the fund to invest in projects that involve Singapore-based media companies. In addition, we will be looking at media companies globally that have a China story."

He called China the "most exciting media market today". In terms of box office takings, it is second only to the United States. Its TV market will also overtake Japan by 2018 to be the second largest in the world.

Industry insiders welcomed the launch of the fund. Mr Melvin Ang, chief executive officer of Singapore-headquartered film producer and distributor mm2 Asia, is definitely looking to crack the China market.

He noted: "Any such fund is always good but of course, anyone applying must qualify for whatever guidelines and requirements." He added that it was good to have Bona behind the fund given its strong presence in China.

The Bona Film Group's business spans production, distribution and exhibition. Mr Yu noted that China's box office this year would hit 30 billion yuan (S$6.4 billion) and that Bona accounted for about 10 per cent of that.

The 11-day Singapore Media Festival, which runs till Dec 14, is an umbrella media event hosted by the Media Development Authority and brings together events such as the Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF), ScreenSingapore 2014 and the Singapore International Film Festival.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information Lawrence Wong witnessed the launch of the media fund, and later highlighted it in his address for the official opening of ATF and ScreenSingapore.

He said: "Through the Singapore Media Festival, we hope to offer opportunities for international media players to deepen their collaborations with Asian and Singapore media companies. The US$100 million dollar fund will be the first fund that allows foreign investors to participate in China's media market."

Mr Wong also noted that the power of film and TV will be harnessed to mark Singapore's 50th birthday next year. He said: "We will have a bumper crop of more than 24 Singapore films next year, that's double our average annual output. That works out to about two movies a month - Singapore movies, made in Singapore, about Singapore."

The 15th edition of ATF and fourth edition of ScreenSingapore are expected to attract a record high of close to 5,000 attendees from 60 countries.