Rich pickings forecast in Arab world advertising

The Arab advertising market has the potential to double to US$10 billion (Dh36.73bn) by 2016, says the billionaire behind one of India's largest media companies.

Subhash Chandra, the founder of Zee Entertainment, said greater competition in the media industry would result in advertising spending rising above analysts' expectations.

The total advertising market in the Arab world was worth an estimated $4.7bn last year, according to the Arab Media Outlook, which was published in April in collaboration with the Dubai Press Club and Deloitte.

Mr Chandra acknowledged this was "small" - but was bullish on the sector's growth prospects.

"In this market, it is only two or three media groups and perhaps only two media sales agencies that are taking 80 or 90 per cent of the advertising," he said.

"If they allow competition, I think this market can grow many-fold … It can grow in the next three to four years to $10bn."

That is far more than the forecast laid out in the Arab Media Outlook, which estimated the total Arab advertising market would increase to just $6bn by 2015.

However, Mr Chandra said the growth of the industry depended on more challengers emerging to existing market leaders, which include the TV broadcaster MBC, based in Dubai.

Zee Entertainment, which is part of the Essel Group conglomerate, recently invested $100 million launching Zee Alwan, an Arabic-language TV station. It plans to launch additional free-to-air stations over the coming years.

Mr Chandra is ranked in Forbes magazine's list of the world's billionaires, with a net worth of $1.8bn.

He is the chairman of the Essel Group, which has diverse holdings ranging from Zee Entertainment and the satellite-TV service Dish TV, to infrastructure and packaging.

It was reported last week that Essel Group was seeking to raise $500m to fund expansion and pay debt at some of its companies.

Mr Chandra confirmed several of the group companies were seeking financing as part of their "routine" activities.

"It's not one single transaction of $500m," he said.

"A number of different companies are doing their different jobs on a daily basis."

The company's infrastructure arm Essel Infra last week closed financing of $300m for a road project in southern India, according to Mr Chandra.

"That's part of the $500m," he said.

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