The Office of the Communications Authority (OFCA) has recommended against renewing ATV’s broadcast license.
OFCA made a draft recommendation as early as September on the application by Asia Television Ltd. for renewal of its free-to-air license, Apple Daily reported Wednesday.
That was revealed in a court hearing in which Taiwanese billionaire Tsai Eng-meng, chairman of mainland food manufacturer Want Want Holdings Ltd. and a shareholder of ATV, asked the High Court to appoint an independent supervisor for the station.
Tsai’s lawyer said ATV incurred a net loss of HK$378 million (US$48.75 million) last year and that OFCA has serious concerns about the station’s financial performance and management practices.
It was also revealed that major investor Wang Zheng, a mainland property tycoon, not only ceased injecting capital in August but also requested that ATV return HK$1 billion to him, failing which he might file for the liquidation of the television station.
Tsai holds a 47.58 percent stake in ATV with Hong Kong businessman Payson Cha Mou-sing and his brother via Antenna Investment Ltd., which has asked the court to assign an independent third party to sit on the board of directors at the troubled television station, or order three other shareholders, including Panfair Holdings Ltd., to sell shares of ATV.
Those three companies, which are owned by relatives of Wang Zheng and Prosperity International Holdings (HK) Ltd. (0803.HK) chairman David Wong Ben-koon, oppose Antenna’s motion.
Tsai’s son Kevin Tsai Shao-chung said he was shocked by the news that Wang Zheng had demanded money from ATV, saying it is not logical that an experienced businessman like Wang would make such a move against a company the liabilities of which outweighed its assets.
Kevin Tsai said he has been in regular dialogues with potential buyers and investors and agreed that the value of ATV lies in its business potential, especially in the mainland.
Even though OCFA’s recommendation was based on its review of the internal management of the station, he said, the public interest will have to be taken into account during the actual license renewal process.
Tsai said his father has promised to sustain ATV’s operations, agreeing to offer financial assistance to the station so it can meet the HK$10 million in monthly expenses. However, he said, his father will not repay ATV’s debts to Wang Zheng.
An ATV representative refused to comment on the matter, as legal proceedings are ongoing, but stressed that the station is operating normally and that it is optimistic about its license being renewed.
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