CTI, i-Cable shares rise over free-to-air plans

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 January, 2010, 12:00am

Shares of i-Cable Communications and City Telecom (CTI) soared yesterday after both firms said they planned to offer free-to-air television services in Hong Kong, breaking the duopoly long held by Television Broadcasts and Asia Television.

Shares in i-Cable, which owns pay-television operator Cable TV, closed 9.57 per cent higher at HK$1.26. CTI, Hong Kong's second-largest broadband provider, rose 2.7 per cent to HK$3.80.

CTI lodged its licence application last week with the Broadcasting Authority and said it planned to invest about HK$210 million in the venture.

I-Cable said it would submit a bid later this month. It expects to be able to launch its free service within nine months of being granted the licence and beam to the whole of Hong Kong by 2016.

The company plans to transmit its signal through the fibre network of its subsidiary, Hong Kong Broadband Network.

It is expected that the licence will be granted to CTI, as it has no media cross-ownership issues.

There is no limit as to how many licences the Broadcasting Authority will grant.

Moody's Investors Service wrote in a note that the announcement would not have an impact on CTI's Ba3 senior unsecured bond and corporate family ratings.

It said the estimated maximum cost of the investment of HK$210 million was still a small proportion of its cash-flow generation ability.

'While this investment may represent a shift in the company's strategy to pursuing business opportunities outside its core fixed-line broadband and voice services, Moody's expects CTI to exercise financial prudence with such opportunities. But any further aggressive debt-funded investments in this area may pressure its ratings,' said Moody's vice-president Laura Acres.