Next Media was founded by high profile businessman Jimmy Lai, known for his support for democracy and criticism of China. It introduced tabloid-style journalism into Hong Kong and Taiwan, with the hugely successful Apple Daily. The group made a rare misstep by entering Taiwan’s saturated broadcasting market. In October 2012 it agreed to sell its loss-making Taiwan TV unit and to terminate its video-on-demand (VOD) services, but the deal fell through in March 2013.
Jimmy Lai's Next Media rockets on sale of Taiwan assets
Jimmy Lai's cash deal lifts stock by 41 per cent after trying and failing to hold out on the island
The price of shares in Hong Kong-listed Next Media rocketed 41 per cent yesterday to their highest level in nearly four years, after media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying said he would sell his newspaper, magazine and television assets in Taiwan for NT$17.5 billion (HK$4.64 billion) in cash.
"The surge in the shares of Next Media is because Lai agreed to sell the Taiwan business, thus he won't need to pump more capital into [that] market," Lyncean Securities managing director Francis Lun Sheung-nim said.
The stock closed at HK$1.58, up 41 per cent, compared with a gain of 0.48 per cent by the benchmark Hang Seng Index.
"The 40 per cent increase is too much speculation," Lun said. "This is irrational."
He estimated that HK$1 was a reasonable price. "The price was even above HK$1.70 during the trading [yesterday], which is too high," he said, noting that the share price lingered below HK$1 for a long time.
Next Media's share price has more than doubled since the company announced plans on September 4 to sell its Taiwan assets. It last traded at HK$1.12 before a suspension on October 16.
Next Media said on Wednesday it would sell its Taiwan assets to Chinatrust Financial's former vice-chairman Jeffrey Koo, the eldest son of Chinatrust Financial Holding founder and chairman Koo Leng-son.
Lai, known for his anti-Beijing stance, is chairman and controlling shareholder of Next Media, which publishes Apply Daily, free paper Sharp Daily, Next magazine and Sudden Weekly in Hong Kong. Selling the assets would allow the company to focus on operations in Hong Kong, its biggest market, and the development of its digital content, Next Media said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Lun said it was unclear what Lai would do with the cash, but one possibility was to give a special dividend to shareholders.
The exit from Taiwan might be a setback for Lai, who has tried aggressively on the island to establish his media influence.
On Tuesday, Lai said in bidding farewell to employees in Taipei: "I can't hold out here anymore. I tried and I failed."