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Media executives predict growth and mergers in 2014

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The improving global economy has given media executives confidence for fiscal improvement in 2014 -- a year that could be punctuated by mergers and acquisitions in the media and entertainment sectors, according to a new report.

Consulting firm Ernst & Young on Tuesday released its 9th Capital Confidence Barometer for the media and entertainment industry. The report -- a survey of senior executives of large media companies -- is intended to glean corporate concerns and boardroom trends.

The firm found that 68% of the executives surveyed were confident that the global economy was improving. That represented a dramatic increase from last year, when only a quarter of the executives expressed confidence in the economy.

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The EY survey found that 13% of the executives said they would likely cut employees. But 55% said they intend to maintain the size of their current workforce. 

About 32% of media executives said they expected to add to their workforce in the coming year. However, the executives acknowledged a greater emphasis on cost-control measures.

Two-thirds said they were under pressure to control costs. There was a "a greater focus on efficiency and cost control for their companies than a year ago," the report found.

Merger-and-acquisition activity is expected to rise. Nearly three-quarters of the executives predicted an uptick in deal-making. A quarter of the executives said they expected their company to pursue acquisitions in 2014.

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An overwhelming majority -- 85% of those questioned -- said credit availability was stable or improving. That compared to 55% a year ago.

More than half said they planned to use cash on hand to finance deals. A quarter said they would likely tap debt markets and 18% said they intended to use equity as currency to make deals.

“Growing confidence in the global economy, a focus on investments in core products and services, and an improving transaction outlook all point to the potential for larger and more significant deals within the M&E industry,” Tom Connolly, EY’s global media & entertainment transaction advisory services leader, said in a statement.

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