The clock is ticking on the financing of PCCW's HK$15.93 billion buyout deal, with today's Court of Appeal hearing into approval of the privatisation expected to be crucial to its chance of success. If the judgment goes against the deal and the case ends up in the Court of Final Appeal, the delay may push completion of the financing beyond its April 23 deadline. PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai has been trying to take the telecommunications company private since December last year. But it has been put on hold for months as the Securities and Futures Commission attempted to get a court ban on grounds of suspected vote rigging. Today's Court of Appeal hearing could once again stymie Mr Li's buyout plan. On April 23, or in just a week's time, a HK$12.6 billion loan facility HSBC Holdings provided to finance Mr Li's buyout will expire. 'It could be difficult to guarantee that the bank will continue to provide the loan to settle the buyout deal payment after the deadline,' a source said. The loan deal was signed at the end of last year and HSBC sources indicated the bank would be unlikely to leave such an important customer high and dry. But PCCW insiders remain tetchy about whether the bank will provide new finance after the expiry date. During the long credit draught, many takeover deals have flopped as cash-strapped banks get cold feet about lending risk. Shares in PCCW yesterday rose 0.98 per cent to HK$4.12, still below the offer price of HK$4.50 per share. The SFC argues that the High Court's approval to the deal earlier this month could be harmful to minority shareholders, given the share vote-rigging allegations surrounding the privatisation. The SFC is fighting for its reputation in the high-profile case following several setbacks including the backdown on the blackout period for directors trading shares in their own companies and the minibond saga. 'It could be difficult for the SFC to win the case in the Court of Appeal,' said legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah yesterday. 'The Court of Appeal needs to prove the High Court judge has made serious mistakes in making the judgment, so as to overrule the previous judgment.' PCCW shareholders voted for the buyout on February 4. However, the SFC seized 6,000 voting records following the investor meeting amid allegations of vote rigging at the meeting. Today, a trio of appeals court judges including Mr Justice Anthony Rogers, a former head of the Standing Committee on Company Law, will hear both sides' arguments again. Separately, a minority shareholder has appointed lawyer Wong Kwok-tung to apply to remove Mr Justice Rogers from the case. PCCW's majority shareholder Pacific Century Regional Developments last week disclosed that Mr Justice Rogers and Mr Li were acquaintances. However, it said in a letter to the SFC and PCCW minority shareholders that the contacts between the two were limited and the company would not object to Mr Justice Rogers hearing the case.