Fri, Oct 19, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Jimmy Lai rebuts reports of Want Want in Next deal

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Next Media Group (壹傳媒集團) chairman Jimmy Lai (黎智英) said he decided to finalize the sale of four media outlets in the group after ensuring that none of the funding came from Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明).

In an announcement filed at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Next Media confirmed that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinatrust Charity Foundation chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒), who has agreed to purchase the Apple Daily (Taiwan), the Sharp Daily, Next Magazine and Next TV at a bundled price of NT$17.5 billion.

Koo’s co-investors in the deal include Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團) chairman William Wong (王文淵) and a Singapore-based private equity firm.

A report published in the United Daily News on Wednesday said the investment from the private equity firm included funding from the group’s arch rival, Tsai. Because of this, Lai was said to have proposed increasing the sale price by NT$2.5 billion.

Lai denied the allegation.

“The news was an insult to my character,” Lai said in an interview with the Apple Daily published yesterday. “[I] have clarified this in the negotiation and the deal was clinched after it was proven the private equity fund was not owned by Tsai Eng-meng.”

The announcement helped boost Next Media share prices on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange yesterday, which went up by about 41 percent to close at HK$1.59 per share, compared with about HK$0.5 per share last month. Share prices of other media companies in Hong Kong also rose by between 1 percent and 7 percent following the announcement.

Minister of Finance Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) said that Next Media would be obligated to pay 20 percent income tax from the transaction.

The announcement on Wednesday showed that both Lai and Koo aim to enter into a definitive agreement on Nov. 17, and confirmed that the parties would complete the transaction before Dec. 17.

Lai has also agreed to a three-year non-compete and non-solicitation clause, under which both he and his company would not own, control, or solicit employees from any company which engages in print media or TV in Taiwan.

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