Hong Kong Television Network has confirmed that its chief, Ricky Wong Wai-kay, met controversial ATV investor Wong Ching this week. But it says a takeover of the station was not on the agenda.
In an announcement to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, the HKTV board confirmed reports that Ricky Wong, its chairman and executive director, had a meeting with Wong Ching on Thursday at Wong Ching's request. They were seen together at the W Hotel in West Kowloon and photos of them together circulated on the internet.
"Ricky Wong did meet Wong Ching … to exchange views on the recent developments of the free-television industry in general as well as the future of ATV," the board said in the statement.
But last night, Wong Ching denied that it was his idea to meet Ricky Wong: "It was neither me nor Ricky Wong who initiated the meeting. That's all I can say."
He said it was his understanding that Ricky Wong did not have any plan to buy ATV shares.
HKTV spent millions of dollars and produced hundreds of hours of programmes in anticipation of winning approval to set up a free-to-air channel. But its licence request was turned down by the government in October, while those by i-Cable and PCCW were accepted.
Ricky Wong has repeatedly denied reports that he is interested in buying ATV, of which he served as chief executive for just 12 days in 2008. Reports suggested ATV was prepared to sell the station for HK$1.3 billion - less than the HK$1.4 billion Wong Ching offered.
But Ricky Wong was said to have been put off by the high price for a station that has shed viewers in recent years under pressure from dominant TVB.
"[HKTV] wishes to clarify that there is no agreement or understanding in relation to the acquisition of ATV," the statement said. "The company continues to explore different options to develop its multimedia production and distribution and other multimedia-related business."
Wong Ching is not a shareholder in ATV despite his investment. A relative, Wong Ben-koon, holds a 51 per cent stake in ATV and has applied to renew its licence, which expires in 2015. In August, the Communications Authority fined ATV HK$1 million for breaching licence terms by allowing Wong Ching to exercise de facto control over the station.