Asia Times forced to halt publication

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BANGKOK -- Asia Times, the 18-month-old regional English-language daily newspaper founded by Thai entrepreneur Sondhi Limthongkul, announced it would suspend publication from June 28 due to financial difficulties.

Publisher Manager Media International claims that outside investment is in place to resurrect the title within 90 days with a new editorial look and marketing plan. But the rival International Herald Tribune reported June 27 that analysts did not expect Asia Times to reappear on newsstands. MMI says the paper will continue publishing on its Web site.

The move comes after months of speculation that the paper would be a casualty of MMI Chairman Limthongkul's aggressive investment in media and property ventures despite a slowdown in Thailand's once-booming economy. Thin advertising support was a major reason for the paper's failure.

Limthongkul, who is reputed to have set himself the target of becoming an "Asian Rupert Murdoch", with plans for a satellite television network within his media empire, said of the decision: "We have funded Asia Times on our own for the last few years, but the conditions of the Thai economy are such that we are required to reevaluate the business side of Asia Times."

The paper has suffered from a lack of marketing focus, he says. "We are currently reorganizing marketing functions to allow us to be more responsive to the needs of our customers."

Limthongkul launched Asia Times at the end of 1995 with the mission to provide a "distinct Asian perspective" on a wide range of business, financial and economic news. This would differ from the Asian Wall Street Journal, a major competitor, and its "international perspective," MMI said. Asia Times was also aimed at small to medium Asian entrepreneurs.

It was set up to have correspondents in 21 cities, "many in places the western media have chosen to ignore," and to publish simultaneously in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok with distribution across the region on the same day.

MMI publishes around 20 magazines and papers in English, Chinese and Thai, including Asia, Inc, a business monthly, lifestyle magazine The Chinese, and Chinese and English language trade magazines from Singapore-based Manager Trade Publications.

Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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