The legislature’s Economics Committee yesterday passed a resolution asking the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) to convene a public hearing immediately about the purchase of Next Media’s Taiwanese businesses by three potential buyers, saying that if the deal goes through, the newspaper market share under Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-ming (蔡衍明) would reach 46.3 percent, exceeding the 33 percent threshold that requires approval from the commission.
The remarks came against the background of a meeting in Taipei between Formosa Plastics Group chairman William Wong (王文淵), ChinaTrust Charity Foundation chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) and Tsai — as well as the top brass of Apple Daily, one of the four businesses owned by Next Media.
Media reports said the three buyers outlined their principles for operating the newspaper. They also pledged to “respect news professionalism” and not to “lay off staff or interfere with news reporting.”
Earlier this week, the commission laid out its stance that Koo “cannot control, lead or operate” the Next Media Group’s Taiwanese businesses.
The commission said it is very insistent on the policy of separating the ownership of media businesses and financial holdings businesses because recent precedents such as the Rebar Group embezzlement scandal have clearly shown that irregularities can occur if the policy is not followed.
The commission reportedly told Koo he could not become a major shareholder unless he cut his share to less than 20 percent, even though local media reported that the trio had reached an initial agreement on Wednesday in which Koo and Wong would each hold 34 percent of the shares, while Tsai would hold the remaining 32 percent. The other party in the deal, Tsai, is also a controversial figure, with extensive business holdings in China and control of the Want Want China Times Group in Taiwan.
FTC Chairman Wu Shiow-ming (吳秀明) said yesterday the commission has examined all possible scenarios and is keeping close tabs on the development of the high-profile transaction.
Wu said talks on the deal are still underway and the share ratios of the investors are still unclear, but he added that if the final deal is filed with the commission, it will investigate the sources of the funds and interview the investors, who will have to explain the deal.
“We will give the green light to the deal based on the facts reviewed,” Wu said.
Meanwhile, Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) Chairman Chen Yuh-chang (陳裕璋) said yesterday his commission will complete an overall review of cases in which the media and financial industries are combined within six months.
Chen said the Financial Holding Company Act (金融控股公司法) stipulates the separation of the two sectors.
“The FSC will first target the case currently under the spotlight and review those that have already taken place,” Chen said, adding his commission will not wait until problems arise with individual cases.
Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) yesterday said the Executive Yuan would not interfere with the case because it must respect the independence of the FSC, FTC and the National Communications Commission and their exercise of power.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan