Next Media, the publisher of Apple Daily and Next Magazine, is in talks to buy rival China Times in Taiwan for between NT$15 billion (HK$3.55 billion) and NT$20 billion. Sources said negotiations between China Times owner Albert Yu and Next Media's management were near the final stage and the deal was expected to be announced next month. The potential purchase would enable the company to expand into Taiwan's television broadcasting business in addition to its print publications. Apart from newspapers and magazines, China Times also operates cable television channel unit CTI. Next Media initially approached China Times for CTI, but the Yu family wanted to sell all other publications, including the company's unprofitable newspaper bearing the same name, as a package, sources said. However, the deal may face regulatory hurdles as overseas investors are not allowed to own a terrestrial broadcaster and cannot hold more than 60 per cent of a cable television business. China Times owns terrestrial broadcaster China Television, while its CTI unit runs three channels. The company also runs financial title Commercial Times, magazine China Times Weekly and evening newspaper China Times Express. Next Media runs Apple Daily, Next Magazine and free title Sharp Daily on the island, and could become its biggest media group with the purchase, if it goes through. '[The deal] will make the media market more competitive since Next Media is very market-oriented,' said Kain Huang, chief planning officer at Aegis Media Taiwan, a media agent. Another industry source in Taiwan said the Yu family might keep certain profitable businesses. 'Several veteran staff at China Times were transferred to Commercial Times several months ago, and the operation of the two newspapers has been separated,' he said. The 58-year-old China Times has recorded losses for years after Next Media launched Apple Daily in 2005, forcing it to lay off 600 staff this summer and cut the number of pages. 'Taiwan's media companies, which are mostly private or family-owned, need to improve their financial controls to raise profitability in the competitive market,' an industry analyst said. 'Hong Kong companies do not have the traditional burden of keeping veteran staff on, which could help lower costs.' Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying recently asked its Taiwan management team to get training in the broadcasting business, a company source said. 'The chairman has mentioned he will stay in Taiwan for a long time to handle the business,' he said. The company has been running trials for its newly developed news animation production, which observers said could be launched in Taiwan by December on the television platform it hoped to buy. Next Media entered the Taiwan market in 2001 with the launch of Next Magazine, followed by Apple Daily four years later. Both are now bestsellers. Apple Daily's average daily circulation was more than 500,000 copies in the first half of this year. Its Taiwan business generated HK$1.44 billion in revenue for the year to March this year, up from HK$1.35 billion a year earlier, accounting for 41.3 per cent of the group revenue. Next Media executive director Ip Yut-kin declined to comment on the buyout talks.