If you've never heard of TMT, you're not the only one. But if you're a user of 3G, digital TV, mobile video, online shopping and a variety of recent information innovations, you're probably intimately familiar with TMT in practice, if not in words. Industry insiders, especially venture capitalists, are champing at the bit to get in on the emerging field--TMT--a convergent trend of technology, media and telecommunications.
While development of the industry is based on combined technological support from information technology (IT), media and telecommunications, Wang Jin, an analyst from Analysys International, one of the leading Internet-based business information service providers for the Chinese TMT industry, says it really isn't that simple.
According to Wang, each of the industries influences one another. The lines between them have blurred, a development that can be traced back to the Internet heydays of the early 1990s, when structural changes began rippling through the separate industries. Those changes will bind the industries even more tightly in the future.
Take telecom for example, Wang said. People generally consider telecom as simply meaning communication. In the future it won't mean the same as it used to be, he said. The industry will provide more services to consumers, things such as media content and entertaining products. This isn't your 1990s telecom anymore--it is branching out into sectors such as new media and new entertainment to offer a much more diversified product.
"In the TMT sector, the Internet provides technological support for media, while telecom offers channels for selling products, and media and information are the backbone," said Wang Jin. "In the future, information will weigh heavily in technology-oriented industries."
Wang added that IT and telecom in China are transforming to focus on information, service and entertainment--a sure sign that TMT is developing toward maturity in the country.
Favored by VC
Although just one letter different from TNT--a powerful explosive--TMT shows its effect on the venture capital market no less than a big bomb.
Li Wei, a senior consultant from the China World Trade Corp., said 80 percent of global venture capital investment takes place within the TMT industry. In China, a whopping 90 percent of overseas listed companies operate in TMT fields. Foreign investors believe there is a huge potential in the Chinese TMT market.
According to Li, China is ripe for TMT development. The number of Chinese subscribers to mobile phones, fixed telephones and cable TVs ranks first in the world. The number of Internet and personal computer users in China comes second and third worldwide, respectively. It doesn't take the brightest bulb to realize how attractive the market is for venture capitalists looking to cash in--they're coming in droves from across the globe.
And the numbers are beginning to support the anecdotes. Venture capital investment in China last year was equal to one quarter of the investment in Silicon Valley during the same period, according to Zhang Fan, Founding Managing Partner of Sequoia Capital China.
According to statistics from a 2006 research report on China's venture capital market released by the China Venture Capital Research Institute (Hong Kong), venture capital investment hit a record high in the country last year, totaling 14.36 billion yuan. Annual growth last year of over 50 percent was only second to the United States. Foreign venture capitalists dominated the market, accounting for 74.2 percent, while purely domestic investments only grabbed 18.3 percent.
However, the industry has made progress compared to five years ago. Statistics from Ernst & Young China showed that five years ago China's venture capital investments were only one-fifth that of Germany, one-seventh that of Israel, and one-73rd that of the United States.
Yet the tides are turning. Last year, venture capital investment in China was equal to that in Israel, twice as much as that in Germany, and one-20th that in the United States.
According to Mark Heesen, President of the U.S. National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), with improvement in China's accounting systems and protection of intellectual property rights and the emergence of more sharp-minded investors, the Chinese market will be more attractive for US venture capital institutions in the years to come.
Heesen said his prediction is not just based on the fact that China has a huge market--it is also based on the key role the country plays in the global industrial chain.
In China's burgeoning venture capital market last year, TMT kept the same dominant domestic role it had played in its nascent stage a few years ago.
The TMT sector was undoubtedly among those favored by venture capitalists. According to Zero2IPO, one of the leading integrated service providers in China's venture capital and private equity industry, though a downward trend occurred in the second half of last year, investment and the number of cases within the IT sector still dominated the market overall, with capital input accounting for 62.1 percent of total investments.
Mergers and acquisitions in the TMT sector were also active in 2006. Zero2IPO's China Merger and Acquisition Market Annual Report 2006 showed 101 mergers and acquisitions took place in China's TMT, health care and energy sectors last year. Some 79 belonged to TMT-related companies alone, 45 of which involve a total capital of $2.178 billion.
According to NVCA, media and entertainment, energy and Internet-specific sectors will continue to see growth in venture capital this year.
Match point--digital convergence
The latest report from Deloitte's TMT Industry Group forecast an overwhelming trend of TMT activity in the global market.
The report pointed out that from 2005 to 2010 at least $1 trillion could be generated from converged TMT products or services. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), or phone service through the Internet, is considered the most important of these converged services. Revenue from VoIP alone could total $1 trillion by 2010.
The convergence can also be seen with other products like new-generation digital music players, home theater systems, home video phones and web-based enterprise cooperating platforms. Those are expected to generate a market of $90 billion by 2010 and a total of $360 billion over the next five years.
The report also predicted that by 2010, revenues of $60 billion could be generated from web-based enterprise coordinating services, $55 billion from IPTV, $50 billion from mobile phone content services, $35 billion from online gaming and $20 billion from online music.
Charles Yen, Leader of Deloitte China's TMT Group, said the development of TMT is promising in the Asia-Pacific Region. TMT companies have skyrocketed in the region during the past three years, with an average annual increase of 412 percent. The pace in China is especially outstanding and compares to these rates.
But Yen also said the enterprises in the Asia-Pacific Region should learn from the experienced companies in Europe and America. They should enhance their competence in research and development.
According to Yen, China has a great talent pool and a sound infrastructure to build a thriving TMT industry. But those are not the only keys to success. It will not be able to take advantage of its low labor costs for a long time.
"I suggest the country's TMT enterprises focus on their research and development, which is the key to their success," said Yen.
Yen continued to say that although "convergence" is a modern word for the TMT industry, real convergence has yet become reality. "TMT companies need to change their existing business model," said Yen.
As examples, he gives online newspapers and online music, both candidates of converged products or services. Even though newspapers invest much on building websites and developing free reader services on the Internet, they gain little from their online stories, according to Yen.
By contrast, online music services have successfully shifted their focus as far as including mobile phone users. Ring tone sales in the domestic market are expected to reach $5 billion by 2008, about 10 times higher than what domestic online music sales were in 2004.
Yen said the diversity of the mobile phone ring tone market ensures large profits from the online music business. In his opinion, if the Chinese media want to make a name for themselves online, they need to address their web business structure.
Wang Jin, from Analysys International, also believed innovative minds are urgently needed in the TMT arena. It is only through the creation of innovative products that companies can secure a leading place in the avant-garde of these technological markets.
(Beijing Review, April 20, 2007)