Publishing going private in China? Probably soon.
April 17, 2009 by ruediger

Is China ready for the next move in allowing publishers to just mind about their own business? It seems so.

The official China news agency Xinhua reports refering to China Daily: “About six or seven press and publishing giants with annual revenues of more than 10 billion yuan (1.46 billion U.S. dollars) will be set up to compete globally in three to five years,” said Fan Weiping, director of the publishing industry development department affiliated to the GAPP.”

The China General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) which is both running the publishing industry and censorship, released guidelines earlier this week saying that “market-oriented news organizations and publishers have been given a deadline of one to two years to make the transition to full-fledged commercial players”, according to Xinhua.

These developments perfectly fit into a long term strategy of bringing China’s publishing industry in line with its global peers, as we reported here earlier.

The largest group, “Higher Education Press” already has a solid place in our ranking of the world’s top publishing conglomerates, and HEP has great ambitions to evelop into a global player, on par with the major players of the West.

Only last year, Liaoning Press was the first publishing company allowed to go public on the Shanghai stock exhange.

Other publishing ventures started to open offices abroad, like China Youth International Press did in London in 2008.

And Chinese online gaming companies like Shanda – listed at the Nasdaq – expanded into publishing by setting up its own “literature” division specializing in the booming online publishing business for young adult readers. (We will present Shanda’s vision in a panel at BookExpo America in just a month in New York.)

Background

Reuters quotes the recent GAPP documents as saying that the

“policy “opinion” from the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) stresses that China’s Communist Party censors will continue controlling what appears in books and other publications.

But the document issued in the People’s Daily signals the government wants publishers — until now run more like the bureaucracies to which most are attached — to become more commercial through share offers, mergers, takeovers and controlled private investment.

“Encourage and support capital from society, especially from major state-owned businesses, to take part in the share-system restructuring of publishing and media businesses,” the GAPP announcement states.

“Encourage and support non-state-owned capital in various formed entering permitted (publishing) areas,” it adds.

Further Reuters reporting goes:

“The regulations signal private investment is going to play a bigger role,” said Zhang Shouli, who runs a Beijing-based distribution company for children’s books. He and other private operators have been lobbying for a firmer role.

“But these rules are still vague, so we’ll have to wait and see what the specific regulations allow.”

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