Next Digital

New boss of Hong Kong and Taiwan’s Next Digital magazines is ‘relaxed’ after progress on media deal

Transaction was mired in rumours about troubled funding but group reports major deposit has been paid

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2018, 11:26am

Significant progress has been made on the HK$500 million sale of publisher Next Digital’s magazine businesses, after repeated delays amid damaging rumours.

The group, which is controlled by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, said late on Wednesday that buyer Kenny Wee Ho had paid HK$108 million and a further deposit of HK$40 million for the rest of the assets.

The completion date of the transaction is due on February 28, after being pushed back repeatedly from last September.

Hong Kong media giant Next Digital sells magazines for HK$500 million in bid to expand online content

“There were lies – lies saying I’ll never close the deal,” Wee told the Post. Asked how he felt after months of delay, the flamboyant businessman said he was “relaxed”.

Wee, who married former Miss Hong Kong contestant and actress Suki Chui, surprised the market last August when he offered to take over Next Digital’s flagship magazine business, which Lai founded in the 1990s.

But the transaction faced undisclosed obstacles and multiple delays. Wee said the issues were “not my problem”.

He denied he had difficulties in raising funds to complete the deal, which was plagued by speculation that a funding source was troubled financial advisory firm Convoy Global Holdings, a subject of anti-graft investigations over irregular lending activities.

Wee called these “rumours and lies”, adding that he had sufficient funding to close the deal, with HK$400 million in proceeds from the recent sale of his own media business, Metro Daily, including HK$160 million earned from operating the free newspaper over the past four years.

The Next Digital deal is composed of two parts, with HK$320 million to be paid to Next Digital and the remaining HK$180 million to be raised by Wee as working capital for the business.

The group’s stable of publications under the sale – Next Magazine, Sudden Weekly, Face, ME!, and Next+One in Hong Kong and Taiwan – lost HK$92.5 million in the year ending March 31, 2017 compared with HK$25.3 million the previous year.

Next Digital’s remaining portfolio centres on Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily in Hong Kong and Taiwan.