China’s State Media Plan IPOs For Their Online Operations

Communism and capitalism are now apparently the same thing in Chinese online media. The People’s Daily newspaper, an organ of the country’s ruling Communist Party, has filed to float its People’s Daily Online website in Shanghai to raise 527 million yuan ($83.4 million).

The idea is “to maintain and enhance the company’s competitive position in the industry, thus further improving the company’s profitability and social impact”, according to the prospectus.

It wants to invest most of the funds raised in mobile internet services, with the remainder toward upgrading its technology and editing platforms.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) is due to consider the application on Friday.

ABC: “Up to 10 state-owned media websites, including those of the People’s Daily, state broadcaster China Central Television and the Xinhua news agency – are planning domestic stock listings, state media said last year.”

In China, commercial online brands like Sina (NSDQ: SINA) with its market-leading Weibo microblog service, Tencent and Youku are becoming dominant. People’s Daily Online, with 19 million monthly uniques, lags rivals significantly – Sina’s portal had 247 million uniques, the prospectus concedes.

Though companies already required an Internet Content License in order to operate, the government is also now exerting pressure on the companies’ social media services to stamp out radical messages. The government could regain influence by beefing up its own media apparatus in the same commercial sphere led by the upstarts.

FT: “The planned IPO will mark the first time a Chinese state media website goes public, and the first time a Chinese state media company’s listing includes not just commercial but also editorial assets.

“The authorities have pondered for several years how to enable the state media to act as commercial enterprises and produce content that audiences find more attractive and credible without losing the power to use them as propaganda tools.”

In the first half of 2011, People’s Daily Online made a 30 million yuan profit on 211 million yuan revenue.

The People’s Daily newspaper currently holds 79.54 percent of shares in the web operation. Other shareholders include the mobile networks China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.