The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday said it would look into whether Next Media Group (壹傳媒集團) was forced to sell its operations in Taiwan because its Next TV channels were prevented from being listed on local cable TV services.
However, FTC Chairman Wu Shiow-ming (吳秀明) dismissed criticism that the commission has been slow to respond to the Next Media buyout deal, as the deal has not been signed.
Wu made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Economics Committee, where lawmakers and a former FTC chairman addressed their concerns over the planned buyout of the Next Media outlets.
Former FTC commissioner Shih Jun-ji (施俊吉) said that if the Hong Kong-listed media group was forced to take part in the buyout deal, Next Media owner Jimmy Lai (黎智英) could ask for compensation for his losses, because most television viewers in Taiwan cannot watch Next TV because of a reported boycott by major cable TV system operators.
Shih added that the commission should investigate whether the three potential buyers involved in the Next Media deal had caused enterprises to discontinue their business with Next Media for the purpose of harming the company.
The Hong Kong firm last month said it planned to sell its businesses in Taiwan for NT$17.5 billion (US$601.2 million).
The three potential buyers are Chinatrust Charity Foundation (中信慈善基金會) chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒), Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, 台塑集團) chairman William Wong (王文淵) and Want Want Group (旺旺集團) chairman and chief executive Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明).
In response, Wu said the commission would investigate the alleged boycott, but he emphasized that the alleged boycott and the review of the Next Media deal are two separate issues.
In terms of the Next Media deal, the commission cannot take any action until the potential buyers sign a contract with the Hong Kong firm, Wu said.
Local media reported that the three buyers were to sign a contract with Next Media today at the earliest.
Under the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法), buyers of Next Media would need to file applications with the commission for approval to transfer Next Media shares to themselves, Wu said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) said yesterday that had he been chairman of a private company, he would not buy a media company because competition in the industry is severe and a media company is not likely to make much profit.
Saying that a private company has to be specialized in order to survive, Shih said if he had been in charge of a private company, he would not step into an unknown business territory without thorough consideration.