CLOTHING magnate Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has decided to leave the clothing retail business altogether by unloading his shares in garment group Giordano International. He said he would concentrate on his media operations. Mr Lai, founder and major shareholder of Giordano, said he was talking to several overseas buyers about selling most of his stake in the company. He owns 36.4 per cent of Giordano. The stake is worth about $1.5 billion. Mr Lai said yesterday his disposal of shares of Tiger Enterprises, Giordano's clothing subsidiary in China, was to pave the way for selling his Giordano stake. 'That will facilitate the future buyers' control over the two companies,' he said. He plans to sell 34.9 per cent of Giordano to enable buyers to avoid a general offer. His retention of 1.5 per cent is purely technical. The takeover code requires a general buyout offer if an independent party acquires in excess of 35 per cent of a company. 'I think Giordano's share price has gone up to such a high level that it's good timing to unload my shares,' Mr Lai said. He said an unfortunate reality was that Giordano's mainland operations had been affected by his media business because of political sensitivity. 'It makes me uneasy if my newspapers bring negative impact on Giordano and I don't want to see the company suffer,' he said. Mr Lai has two publications, Next Magazine, and Apple Daily. Last year in Next he wrote a vitriolic commentary on Chinese Premier Li Peng. Chinese authorities ordered the closure of Giordano's franchise outlet in Beijing soon after. Mr Lai said it was a pity to give up a company that he built up from scratch, but said these days 'running media business is my career'. He denied that he needed cash to support his newly launched Apple Daily and strongly objected to suggestions that he was disposing of his stake to back his media operations. 'Apple has outperformed my original target which I had expected to achieve in two years,' he said. He said Apple had reached a circulation of 230,000 a day. Analysts said Giordano's popularity among investors was partly due to Mr Lai's high-profile involvement and his sale of his shares could affect its attractiveness. 'Many institutions buy Giordano because of Jimmy's charisma,' an analyst at a European brokerage said. He said the buyout of Tiger would enable Giordano to record double-digit earnings growth next year. 'Taiwan, Singapore and regional markets have slowed down, and Giordano's future earnings rely heavily on the China market,' he said.