Next Media

Jimmy Lai is looking West after selling Taiwan media assets

With potential hefty gains from the disposal, Next Media boss is expected to bounce back

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2012, 4:47am

Publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying plans to take a two-week business trip to North America and Europe after agreeing to sell his newspaper, magazine and television holdings in Taiwan for NT$17.5 billion (HK$4.64 billion) in cash.

Next Media, in which Lai is chairman and controlling shareholder, said in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday that it reached an understanding about the sale on Monday with Taiwanese buyer Jeffrey Koo Jr, the eldest son of Chinatrust Financial Holding chairman Jeffrey Koo Len-song.

The company has applied to resume trading of its shares today after being suspended since Tuesday.

Lai's assistant, Mark Simon, said the Next Media boss had already scheduled that business trip prior to what turned out to be a spontaneous and emotional meeting with his staff in Taiwan.

That encounter, which was featured yesterday by the Hong Kong-based company's flagship Apple Daily newspaper, was also highlighted by Lai's declaration that he would not come back.

Qualifying what Lai meant, Simon said: "He won't be back in the Taiwan media industry."

"Don't worry about Jimmy Lai," Simon said. "He'll come up with something soon."

He added that Lai still had Next Media Animation, various properties and other investments in Taiwan.

Simon also pointed out that there were many groups that wanted to acquire Next Media's publishing and television assets in Taiwan, but Koo had put the best deal on the table.

Koo, who was reportedly backed in his bid by Formosa Plastics Group president Wang Wen-yuan and a Singapore private-equity fund, agreed to buy the newspaper and magazine assets for a combined NT$16 billion and Next TV for NT$1.5 billion.

Apple Daily reported that the parties concerned would sign definite agreements and other documents on November 17. This date was confirmed in the filing of Next Media yesterday.

Next Media's agreement with Koo includes a three-year undertaking by Lai not own or control a firm that engages in the print media and TV broadcast business in Taiwan.

Koo has paid NT$1.75 billion, representing 10 per cent of the total consideration, as a refundable deposit for the transaction.

Eddy Fong, the chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission, declined to comment on disclosure issues by an individual company.

He said that in general, the regulator looked into any alleged disclosure problems to make sure all investors receive the information in a timely manner.

A law comes into effect in January that says listed companies may face a maximum fine of HK$8 million if they failed to disclose their deals in a timely manner.