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Business Trends

Vietnam company sets stage for Japan-style girl groups

Yeah1 Group's listing builds war chest for Southeast Asia expansion

The Yeah1 Group has partnered with two Japanese companies in an attempt to kick-start an idol industry in Vietnam.

HO CHI MINH CITY -- Vietnam's leading entertainment network Yeah1 Group signed a joint venture agreement with two Japanese companies on Thursday, in a quest to replicate the business model behind Japan's mega popular AKB48 girls group.

In partnership with AKS Co. and Geo Brain, Yeah1 will develop groups as well as businesses to hype sales of albums, tickets, images and novelties. "This is a new model for Vietnam's entertainment industry," said Yeah1 Group Chairman Nguyen Anh Nhuong Tong. "However, with the support and experience of [our] Japanese partners, we will bring more Vietnamese entertainers onto the international stage."

The venture's first girl band is expected to debut before the end of the year, Nguyen said.

Yeah1 also said it plans to expand to other Southeast Asian countries. It will target Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia via a mergers and acquisitions strategy.

Besides rolling out new expansion drives, the company has been busy on the financing front. Yeah1 on Tuesday will offer more than 27.3 million shares on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange. The reference price is set at 250,000 dong ($11) per share, which would give the company a market cap of roughly 6.8 trillion dong. 

The reference price makes the shares dearer than some of the country's blue chips. Sai Gon Beer's share price closed Thursday trading at 226,000 dong, while Vinamilk's ended at 170,000 dong.

Yeah1 will be Vietnam's first entertainment company to list on the stock market.

Nguyen Anh Nhuong Tong currently holds a 41.4% stake in Yeah1, and VinaCapital owns more than 30% of the company.

Yeah1 has recently raised more than $100 million via private placements with around 20 investors, including Japan's Capital Asset Management, Thailand's Central Group and Vietnam Holdings.

The company gives young people platforms on which they can interact and create entertainment for Vietnamese audiences.

"Investors believe in Vietnam's young generations," said Nguyen Duc Trong, head of corporate access at Ho Chi Minh City Securities, which advised Yeah1 in the private placement deals and stock market listing. "Young people are going to do business based on their creativity and not depend on the real estate market or their relationships with authorities."

Last year, Yeah1 posted revenue of $37.2 million. It expects to reach $100 million this year and $148 million in 2019.

Yeah1 began in 2006, back when the internet was still young in Vietnam. It specialized in providing youth-oriented entertainment. Two years later, it received its first investment, from DFJ VinaCapital, a venture fund tied to Vietnam's leading asset manager.

The 12-year-old content group currently has nine subsidiaries and four indirect subsidiaries, including Yeah1TV, Yeah1 Family, iMOVIE TV, SCTV2, and Yeah1 Network. The group generates revenue from advertising and also by investing in the production of movies. It's Netlink subsidiary is Vietnam's only Google Certified Publishing Partner.

Yeah1 plans to focus more on its internet content services, which are expected to contribute an estimated 75% to total group revenue this year.

In April, the YanTV music channel, Yeah1's main competitor, shut down, leaving Yeah1 alone to feed youth-oriented entertainment to a population of 93 million, 45% of whom are in the 13- to 35-year-old demographic, according to an estimate from a market research firm.

Yeah1's girl band joint venture is to cooperate with Universal Music Group in commercializing content. Plans are to distribute songs and videos on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Vevo.

Also in the works for Yeah1 is UM Channel Vietnam, which will showcase Vietnamese artists to a global audience.


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