Carlyle invests $20 million in Chinese outdoor advertising ‘supermarket’

The Carlyle Group is putting $20 million toward its second investment in a Chinese outdoor media business that could benefit from the private equity firm’s first investment in 2004.

The Carlyle Group has invested $20 million in Time Share Advertising & Communications, an outdoor media company in China that provides low-cost advertising via idle outdoor billboard space across the country.

This investment comes just two years after Carlyle invested $15 million in Target Media, an outdoor media company that places screens in strategic locations like commercial buildings in more than 30 cities across China. Target Media merged in January with Nasdaq-listed rival Focus Media.

Wayne Tsou, managing director and head of Carlyle’s Asia Growth Capital Group said Time Share and Focus Media are “two different businesses in the same media space,” although the latter “potentially can become a client” for Time Share.

Time Share has a real-time database that serves as a nationwide platform aimed at tapping a highly fragmented outdoor advertising market with nearly 600,000 billboards controlled by more than 60,000 owners, according to a statement.

He Jilun, president of Time Share, who describes his firm as “China’s largest outdoor advertising supermarket,” said the business model represents a “breakthrough from the traditional, single-location billboard advertising with little flexibility on contractual time commitment as well as by adding choices and mix of property locations.”

Tsou said: “This is our second investment in China’s out-of-home advertising space after Focus Media. We are confident of continued exceptional growth in this segment.”

Outdoor advertising in China has grown at an annual rate of 20 percent in the last five years, according to the statement. The fast-growing subset of the advertising sector in China has a 14 percent share of the total $17 billion advertising revenue in 2005.

Time Share Advertising does not itself own any of the billboards or screens, but acts as an intermediary between advertisers and billboard owners, a company official explains. The firm, founded in June 2005, has signed exclusive contracts with nearly 10,000 billboard owners.