Debt-strapped Asia Television Ltd. (ATV) has received a HK$10 billion (US$1.29 billion) injection from a mainland investor, boosting plans for a new license application.
The broadcaster, whose license expires on April 1 next year after it failed to win renewal, said it found a white knight in Si Rongbin, chairman of Qingdao-based Sino Group.
Apple Daily is reporting that Sino Group subsidiary China Culture Media bought 41.66 percent of ATV shares from majority shareholder Wong Ben-koon in June.
Si’s group will buy Wong’s remaining 10.75 percent stake at an unspecified date.
The restructuring is pending approval by the Communications Authority, Hong Kong’s media regulator.
The broadcasting ordinance prohibits the acquisition of more than 2 percent of a terrestrial TV broadcaster by non-Hong Kong residents.
Such transactions involving non-Hong Kong investors need the approval of the media watchdog.
ATV executive director Ip Ka-po said China Culture will invest at least HK$5.1 billion a year through 2020, part of plans to expand ATV’s footprint with the addition of two channels to the existing six.
The new additions will feature a Chinese financial channel and a Putonghua channel.
Also, an internet streaming service is being planned, Ip told a media conference on Thursday.
Ip said ATV’s payroll will no longer be a problem with the new investment, although some employees have yet to receive their August salaries.
He could not say when they will be paid.
Ip said the new ownership structure will not affect ATV’s editorial policy and the station will remain focused on Hong Kong
Earlier, lawmaker Claudia Mo expressed concern Hong Kong’s free-to-air TV market will be dominated by mainland interests.
A source familiar with the situation said Si wants to build an Asian entertainment empire and eventually list ATV on the stock market.
Si is targeting the 47.58 percent held by Taiwan noodle king Tsai Eng-meng, ATV’s second biggest shareholder, to achieve his plan, the source said.
However, Tsai is not interested in selling his stake to Si reportedly because of the latter’s alleged doubtful financial and operational capabilities.
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