Next Digital

New investor joins group purchasing Next Media's Taiwan assets to allow sale to proceed

New partner to allow deal for company's Taiwan assets to be completed next week

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 4:05am

Publishing mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying aims to complete the sale of Next Media's print and television holdings in Taiwan next Tuesday, following the addition of a new partner to the consortium buying the assets.

Next Media, in which Lai serves as chairman and holds a controlling stake, signed two new supplemental agreements with the consortium on Sunday, to continue negotiations that would culminate in closing the NT$17.5 billion (HK$4.7 billion) deal.

The two sides were scheduled to complete their transaction last Saturday at an undisclosed venue in Taipei, but postponed the signing due to efforts by the buyers to get a fourth partner in on the deal, according to a source involved in the talks.

"There's a long line of people who want to be part of this deal," the source said.

Taiwanese entrepreneur Jeffrey Koo Jnr, the eldest son of banking tycoon and Chinatrust Financial Holding chairman Jeffrey Koo Len-song, signed a memorandum of understanding last month for the cash purchase of Next Media's print and TV businesses on the island.

Koo was backed by Formosa Plastics Group president Wang Wen-yuan and a minority investor, widely reported to be a Singapore-based private equity firm. This third party was later confirmed by Next Media to be Lai's adversary Tsai Eng-meng, the chairman and chief executive of Taiwanese snack food-to-media conglomerate Want Want Holdings.

Under the recently forged supplemental agreements, Koo has the go-ahead to invite new co-investors, which may include the family of Formosa Plastics' Wang and Tsai's eldest son, Want Want China Broadband chairman Tsai Shao-chung.

Taiwan's Financial Supervisory Commission last week objected to Koo leading the consortium because of the island's rule that bars financial institutions from investing in media companies.

That set Koo and his partners scrambling to arrange an ownership structure acceptable to the regulator.

In a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, Next Media chief executive Cassian Cheung Ka-sing requested that trading in the company's shares resume at 9am today. Trading was suspended last Wednesday at the company's request.