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's asset sale still under review
Scrutiny continues in disposal of Taiwanese operations as officials check up on buyers
Next Media's sale of its Taiwanese operations is still up in the air as the island's regulators continue to review the HK$4.65 billion deal, an official said yesterday.
"The Taiwanese buyers have submitted supplementary documents to us as requested, but we still need to review them before we can say yes or no for this case," said a spokesman with Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission.
The commission has requested that the four Taiwanese buyers - William Wang Wen-yuan, chairman of Formosa Plastics; Tsai Shao-chung, president of Want Want China Times; Jeffrey Koo Jnr, chairman of ChinaTrust Charity Foundation; and David Lee, chairman of funeral-service provider Lung Yen Life Service - provide detailed information about their fund sources and operational situation before yesterday.
Wang is bidding to take 34 per cent of Next Media's Taiwanese print media, Tsai 32 per cent, Koo 20 per cent, and Lee 14 per cent.
The commission has also asked Want Want China to submit information about the operational conditions of the group's print media, which includes the leading China Times, given that buying part of the Taiwanese edition of Next Media's Apple Daily, a top-selling newspaper, would result in unfair competition or a monopoly.
It also required Koo to explain how he would comply with the local rule that no financial business can own a media business.
Asked when the commission would complete the review of the documents, the official said: "It is still too early to say when we will finish." The four buyers yesterday declined to comment.
Under the contract signed between Next Media and the Taiwanese buyers, the deal must be honoured before March 27. If the commission fails to complete its review before the deadline, the parties involved might have to sign or extend the deal, Taiwanese media reported.
Want Want, which has profited from its mainland snack food business, has also come under mounting criticism for trying to monopolise the local media business in favour of Beijing, a charge it has rejected.