Hunt for cash to keep ailing Hong Kong cable TV company on air

NPC deputy reveals ‘i-Cable management is definitely exploring every solution to handle this’

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2017, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 2:53am

The management of ailing i-Cable Communications is exploring every possible way to keep the broadcaster on air, independent non-executive director Herman Hu Shao-ming said, lamenting that the pay-television licence was not obtained easily.

Hu made the remarks in Beijing on Sunday after i-Cable owner Wharf (Holdings) said that it could not find a buyer for the broadcaster. Funding for i-Cable, which reported a HK$313 million loss last year, would not be extended upon expiry, Wharf said.

Shares in Hong Kong broadcaster i-Cable slump on news that parent Wharf will cut off funding

“The management is definitely exploring every solution to handle this,” Hu, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, said on the sidelines of the NPC meeting.

He said management was looking for capital to keep the broadcaster on air, adding: “I believe this is everyone’s wish.”

The management is definitely exploring every solution to handle this
Herman Hu Shao-ming, i-Cable Communications

Hu said financial statements received each month by the board showed that additional funds needed to be pumped into the broadcaster to keep it running. Failure to obtain such funding could lead to its closure.

The Office of the Communications Authority has said that i-Cable must fulfil its financial responsibilities before its pay-television licence matures on May 31.

Wharf chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said on Thursday that the company had approached many investors, but no one intended to buy i-Cable. He could not say whether the broadcaster would shut, because the company was still seeking financial support.

While the future of i-Cable remains unknown, David Chiu Tat-cheong, second son of the late former ATV owner Deacon Chiu Te-ken, expressed hopes that the government would finish processing the application by his consortium for a free-to-air television license in the first half of the year.

Wharf delivers 25pc rise in annual core earnings

David Chiu, a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference delegate, is leading a consortium called Forever Top.

He said in Beijing on Saturday that the consortium had found a Hong Kong investor to replace the original investor, Hony Capital, a mainland company. That was because regulations in Hong Kong do not allow a non-local investor to hold more than a certain percentage of a television company. Just who the new investor is will be revealed in a month.

“We will specialise in programmes that deal with the economy, because Hong Kong is an international financial centre. In the future, television stations will need to specialise on something, such as entertainment or the economy,” he said.

“The government’s processing should be fast. Just one or two issues still need to be addressed.”