Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai (黎智英), a pioneer of animated news, plans to sell his Taiwanese business after allegedly suffering huge losses on the operation’s TV branch, a report said yesterday.
The chairman of Hong Kong-listed Next Media Ltd (壹傳媒集團) has entrusted an unnamed investment bank with selling the business, which also includes the Apple Daily newspaper and Next Magazine, for US$500 million, the -Chinese-language China Times said.
Next TV Broadcasting Ltd (壹傳媒電視廣播) spokesman Chang Hsiu-cher (張修哲) yesterday said he had no comment on the report.
Chang said that the company was facing difficulties in generating advertisement revenue because of limited news exposure, local cable TV network UBN reported.
In an internal meeting on Thursday night, when local Chinese-language weekly the Journalist first reported Lai’s intention to sell Next Media’s local units, Next TV told its employees that the company’s operation was not in a desperate situation and the likelihood of its parent company selling the TV business was low, a reliable source said.
Lai, a vocal critic of the Beijing adminstration, expanded his media empire to Taiwan in 2001, with the launch of Taiwanese editions of the weekly Next Magazine and the Apple Daily newspaper. Both have been commercial successes.
However, his venture into the nation’s saturated TV market in the middle of last year with several channels featuring news and entertainment appeared to be a failure, the report said.
Initially, Lai planned to get rid of the money-losing TV division only, but he was advised to sell the whole company to attract buyers, the report quoted unnamed sources as saying.
There are more than 100 cable TV channels in Taiwan, including six 24-hour news stations.
Lai had accused Taiwan’s government of trying to rein in the nation’s once-vibrant media when it repeatedly rejected his application for a news channel, citing the group’s sensational reporting style.
Last year, Lai was given the green light to set up the news station after he promised to leave sex and violence out of his trademark animated news. The news station alone currently employs about 400 people.
Next Media did not return calls seeking comment on the report.