Astro trying to make money with Virgin

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Feb 17 2008
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Astro which has a virtual monopoly on pay-TV services in Malaysia has almost nowhere to expand except internationally although its venture into Indonesia was met with losses. Reuters reported that Astro All Asia Network Plc (KLSE: ASTRO, stock-code 5076) is now trying to bid for United Kingdom-based SMG Plc.’s (LON: SMG) radio broadcaster Virgin Radio which operates as a commercial pop and rock music station. SMG put Virgin Radio for sale as part of the plan to dispose non-core assets.

Astro is competing with three other British bidders namely Global Radio, Absolute Radio and UTV Media (LON: UTV) with bidding prices ranging from 60 Astro bid Virgin Radiomillion to 70 million pounds for Virgin Radio. Virgin Radio has been serving UK since 1993 and is the nation’s only commercial pop and rock music station. So what was this bidding all about from Astro, one of the pets that generate money to Malaysian billionaire Ananda Krishnan?

Through years of monopoly the pay-TV market in Malaysia has entered the saturation level, not that Malaysia is a country with huge population that Astro could leverage on. Ananda Krishnan’s investment in Indonesia’s Astro-venture screwed-up big time after it registered a net loss of RM54.18 million for the second quarter ended July 31 2007, dragging down Astro’s bottom line. Since then rumors after rumors that the tycoon plans to take the company private but none seems to materialize, so far.

In Apr 2007, Virgin Radio claimed its “first” when made its broadcasts available via Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii. Instantly gamers could listen to streaming radio, buy tickets and CDs as well as download tracks through Virgin Radio Ticket store via their consoles. But the coolest of all was the option from Virgin Radio to play iTunes online, the world’s best digital music jukebox from Apple Inc (Nasdaq: AAPL, stock). It appears Astro finally is catching up with the latest technology and leverage on it to make money (besides those satellite dishes of course).

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