STAR TV sale fires Malay bid

HONG KONG businessman Richard Li Tzar-kai - son of tycoon Li Ka-shing - plans to use part of the US$400 profit from the sale of STAR TV to invest in telecommunications and infrastructure projects in Malaysia.

Mr Li declined to reveal the exact nature of his plans in interviews with the Malaysian press but his recent visit to Kuala Lumpur immediately prompted speculation that it involved a venture as big as STAR TV.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a vociferous critic of the satellite network, has roundly welcomed Mr Li's plans.

In fact, it was to explain the sale of STAR TV to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch that Mr Li requested a meeting with Dr Mahathir.

In turn, Dr Mahathir said he had nothing against Mr Li for selling to Mr Murdoch.

In a cutting reference to the sale, he said: ''If somebody is stupid enough to pay half a billion dollars for that TV which is not making money, if I were STAR TV I would sell . . . if I don't sell I would be very stupid.'' Mr Li described the environment for investment in Malaysia as ''very conducive''.

''We are now exploring the possibility of investing in telecommunications and infrastructure,'' he was quoted as saying.

Mr Li is extremely interested in high-technology projects and strategic investments and his interest is Malaysia coincides with Dr Mahathir's ''Vision 2020'' to turn Malaysia into an industrialised nation.

Following the sale of STAR TV, Mr Li has formed his own flagship company, Pacific Century Group.