Next Media (壹傳媒) yesterday inked a deal with Taiwan’s ERA Communications (年代網際事業) chairman Lien Tai-sheng (練台生) to sell Next TV Broadcasting (壹傳媒電視廣播) for NT$1.4 billion (US$46.8 million), according to the company’s filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The announcement came after Next Media tried to sell its entire holdings in Taiwan to several Taiwanese investors, only to have the deal fall through last month.
The latest deal would allow Next Media “to rationalize and focus its resources on the group’s profitable operations, which should in turn enable the group to improve its overall business performance,” the company said in a statement.
Shares of Next Media were suspended from trading yesterday on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to wait for the announcement of the deal. Trading is to resume at 9am today, according to the company.
“Everything will be carried out as the deal describes, and we do not have further announcements to make,” Next TV spokesman Chang Hsiu-cher (張修哲) said by telephone yesterday.
He said that the company did not yet know what will change after the ownership is transferred to Lien, and that Next TV will notify the public if there is any progress.
The deal is likely to take effect on June 1 if given regulatory approval, local media reported yesterday, without citing sources.
Fair Trade Commission (FTC) spokesman Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said by telephone yesterday that unlike the previous buyout deal of Next Media’s print assets, the Next TV deal does not need to be approved by the commission since ERA Communications and Next TV do not account for a significant share of the electronic media market, and the National Communications Commission (NCC) would be responsible for reviewing the deal.
The deal announced yesterday was not the first attempt by Next Media owner Jimmy Lai (黎智英) to sell Next TV to Lien.
On Oct. 1 last year, Lai signed a memorandum of understanding with Lien to sell Next TV for NT$1.4 billion. At that time, they expected the deal to become effective on Jan. 1.
However, that memorandum was nullified after Lai later decided to dispose of all of his Taiwanese print assets — the Chinese-language Apple Daily (Taiwan) (台灣蘋果日報), Sharp Daily (台灣爽報) and Next Magazine (壹週刊) — and Next TV for a total of NT$1.75 billion to buyers including Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團).
The NT$1.75 billion buyout deal aroused public opposition to media monopolization as media channels under Want Want China Times Group’s control attacked Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) and National Tsinghua University student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) after they opposed the deal.
The deal failed to be completed by its scheduled deadline of March 27, according to Next Media.