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.
Next Media looks to future after sale
The regulators in Taiwan will still have to review the sale although the buyers' consortium has made changes to comply with requirements
While regulators in Taiwan are set to review the sale of Next Media's print and television business on the island to a group of tycoons, publishing mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying is just glad the deal allows his company to move on.
"We're looking forward to the future," said Lai's assistant, Mark Simon. "We think they (the Taiwanese tycoons) are good buyers and we wish them luck."
Negotiations for the NT$17.5 billion (HK$4.7 billion) cash transaction were concluded at nearly midnight on Tuesday at a hotel in Macau, with Next Media chief executive Cassian Chung Ka-sing and the representatives of the buying consortium.
Next Media, in which Lai serves as chairman and controlling shareholder, has agreed to sell its print and TV business to a consortium that includes Formosa Plastics Group chairman Wang Wen-yuan, entrepreneur Jeffrey Koo Jnr, Want Want China Broadband chairman Tsai Shao-tsung, Yung Len Life Service chairman Lee Shih-tsung, and Taiwan Fire & Marine Insurance chairman Lee Tai-hung.
The famously anti-Beijing Lai, who expanded his media empire to Taiwan in 2001, decided to pull up stakes in the island after failing to obtain a licence for cable TV. Losses have also mounted at Next Media's TV and multimedia units in Taiwan.
The initial agreement between Next Media and the buying group, which was led by Koo, set the deal's completion on November 17. But the two sides rescheduled that to November 27, which allowed the buyers to add investors and comply with Taiwan's regulatory requirements.
"For the record, there were multiple parties who wanted to take part in the deal," said Simon. "Basically, the buyers could bring in anybody. They selected people who they're comfortable with."
The lead shareholder in the buying consortium is now Formosa Plastics' Wang, according to a source involved in the talks.
Taiwan's Financial Supervisory Commission had objected to Koo leading the consortium because of the island's rule that bars financial institutions from investing in the media. Koo is the eldest son of banking mogul and Chinatrust Financial Holding chairman Jeffrey Koo Len-song.
Tsai replaced his father, Want Want Holdings chairman and chief executive Tsai Eng-meng, in the buying consortium.
The elder Tsai, who is an outspoken supporter of Beijing, already runs a large newspaper and TV business in Taiwan. The younger Tsai is a director at Hong Kong's Asia Television, in which his father has a significant stake.
The head of Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission, Sun Lih-chyun, said yesterday that the buying consortium must submit the relevant documents for review by the agency, Reuters reported.
The Financial Supervisory Commission is also expected to study the purchase.