Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Fubon buys into KTV merger controversy

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控) yesterday confirmed that it had increased its stake in Cash Box KTV (錢櫃) but denied the move would resume suspended merger talks between the nation's two largest karaoke chains.

"We did make an investment in Cash Box through one of our affiliates but the stake we hold is less than 3 percent," John Jung (榮藝強), a deputy manager at Fubon, told the Taipei Times. "We plan on raising our share to 10 percent if Cash Box would like to increase its capital in the future."

June denied Chinese-language reports that it had taken large stakes in the two local KTV giants, Cash Box and Holiday Entertainment Co (好樂迪娛樂事業), to facilitate the resumption of merger talks.

"As our share is negligible, we would not have much say in the company's China expansion plan or the merger deal," Jung said.

Chinese-language media reported yesterday that Fubon was trying to get influence with Cash Box's management after buying stakes in both Cash Box and Holiday, which combined have an annual revenue of more than NT$7 billion.

The reports also quoted Holiday's general manager Huang Hung-ta (黃宏達) as saying that Fubon was raising its investment in both companies to revive the merger plan.

Fubon's support could help Cash Box expand the number of outlets it has in China to 10 from five. The KTV market is a hundred times the size of Taiwan's.

"However, the Fubon owners' stance so close to the current ruling party may become an uncertain factor in the company's expansion plans in China," said Chris Tan (譚志忠), an analyst at Yuanta Core Pacific Capital Management (元大京華投顧).

"On the other hand, Fubon's support for Cash Box could increase its strength in negotiations during the course of a merger," he said.

Holiday announced in April last year it was planning to merge with Cash Box by the end of last year. The new company, with NT$4.2 billion (US$120 million) in capital, would have been called Holiday Entertainment.

The deal, however, foundered when Cash Box failed to deliver the necessary documents to Holiday by the deadline in November last year.

"Fubon did make some investment in Holiday starting from last year and I am not sure how much Fubon holds now as the purchase of stock might be registered under other names," Holiday vice president Yang Chang-heng (楊昌恆) said in response to the report.

Huang declined to reveal details of the merger plan, nor its likely outcome. The result would be decided by the board and the situation may become clearer after the company's annual report is released in April.

Cash Box was not available for comment.

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