Formosa Plastics Group (FPG, 台塑集團) yesterday confirmed its chairman, William Wong (王文淵), has been invited to join a deal to acquire the Taiwanese media outlets of Hong Kong-listed Next Media (壹傳媒集團).
The group’s confirmation came after several media outlets reported on Monday that Chinatrust Charity Foundation chairman (中信慈善基金) Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) had invited Wong and a Singapore-based private equity fund to jointly bid for the Chinese-language Apple Daily, Next Magazine and Next TV (壹電視) for NT$17.5 billion (US$600 million).
“We did receive the invitation [to participate in the investment],” an official at FPG’s general administration office told the Taipei Times by telephone yesterday.
The official, who declined to be named, said the conglomerate was still evaluating whether the investment would be made in Wong’s name or through one of the group’s companies.
The group will not comment on the issue if it is an individual investment by Wong himself, the official said.
However, if the group decides to invest in the deal in the name of one of its units or via the group itself, it will need to hold a board meeting to approve the investment plan, he added.
The official did not specify when the company will complete the evaluation, nor how much Wong or the group will invest in the deal.
He said the group would make a formal announcement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange once there was some progress.
“Nothing is concrete at this point,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, shares in Next Media were suspended on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after the company announced a halt to trading starting at 9am until the publication of “price-sensitive information” on the company’s shares.
No announcement had been issued as of press time and Next Media’s Hong Kong headquarters has not commented on the reported deal proposed by Jeffrey Koo Jr, who is the eldest son of Chinatrust founder and chairman Jeffrey Koo (辜濂松).
Chinatrust Financial Holding Co (中信金控) yesterday maintained that it could not comment on Koo Jr’s personal investment plan, a Chinatrust Financial official said by telephone.
Next Media shares closed at HK$1.12 on Monday.
The share price of the company controlled by Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai (黎智英) has doubled since reports emerged in late last month that it would sell off its media operations in Taiwan.
On Oct. 1, Next Media Group announced it would sell Next TV Broadcasting (壹傳媒電視廣播) to Taiwan’s ERA Communications (年代集團) for NT$1.4 billion after the group had signed a memorandum of understanding with ERA chairman Lien Tai-sheng (練台生).
Next Media Group executive director Cassian Cheung (張嘉聲) said the group hoped the transaction would take effect on Jan. 1.
Because Lien made a NT$140 million downpayment, a new deal would mean that Next Media Group would not only have to return the downpayment, but also pay compensation of about NT$140 million for breaking the contract, according to sources familiar with the deal. Lien has not yet commented on the situation.
Lai will retain his flagship Hong Kong newspaper, also called the Apple Daily.