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 falls 26pc as trading resumes following Taiwan debacle
Shares of Next Media lost more than a quarter of their value yesterday after a deal to sell the company's loss-making Taiwan assets fell through.
The stock plunged 25.6 per cent following the end of a trading suspension while the benchmark Hang Seng Index closed 0.3 per cent higher.
Shares in the company, controlled by tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, closed at HK$1.17 on March 25, the day before the trading halt started, pending an announcement about the sale.
Francis Lun Sheung-nim, managing director of Lyncean Securities, said investors had been encouraged by the potential disposal of Next Media's Taiwan assets and were disappointed when the deal fell through.
"The fall in the share price was expected," said Christfund Securities research director Simon Lam Ka-hang. "I've warned investors not to speculate on Next Media, as its share price has gone up too much since November and December, when news came out that the company was selling its Taiwan operations."
The company, known for its anti-Beijing stance, said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange last week it had no plan to lay off staff from its Taiwanese Apple Daily newspaper but that it would consider closing down one of its magazines, Taiwan ME!
Lam said Next Media's prospects over the near term were "very uncertain", adding that "investors who value stability and safety should avoid" the stock.
Lai has said he would carry on with his print empire in Taiwan while continuing to seek a sale of the television assets.
"Since [I] wasn't able to sell it this time, there won't be any more sales ever again, as it would be unfair to my employees and readers," Lai said last week.
He had originally planned to sell the print and television assets together to a consortium of four Taiwanese buyers. One of those buyers reportedly walked away at the last minute.
Lam said it would be difficult for Next Media to sell its television business: "The loss-making asset is not attractive to buyers."