The owner of pro-government newspaper Sing Tao Daily said on Friday it was in discussions with an independent investor interested in buying a stake in the group following a 29 per cent surge in its share price this week. In a statement to the stock exchange , publisher Sing Tao News Corporation said it noted the recent increase in its price and trading volume of the shares, which jumped from HK$1.02 on Monday to a four-year high of HK$1.32 on Friday. The latest closing price means a market capitalisation of HK$1.14 billion (US$145 million). While the corporation did not disclose the identity of the investor, a China watcher speculated the buyer would be one with a close link across the border. With Hong Kong’s newspaper industry in a slump, senior lecturer in journalism at Baptist University Lui Ping-kuen believed the paper would very likely draw China-linked investors. By owning the paper, one can easily influence teenagers and students through their publications Baptist University lecturer Lui Ping-kuen “ Sing Tao Daily is the newspaper that is widely read in schools and the middle-class, and the education section is definitely a main part of the paper,” Lui said. “By owning the paper, one can easily influence teenagers and students through their publications.” “The paper has strategic importance, especially when Hong Kong has been chaotic in the past months and Chinese authorities would like to [have] tighter control,” he said. The corporation publishes the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily , the free newspaper Headline Daily and the English-language The Standard, and also holds a considerable portfolio of property and other assets. The media firm is 49.7 per cent owned by tobacco tycoon Charles Ho Tsu-kwok since he took over the firm in 2001. The group used to be owned by Sally Aw’s family, which founded the newspaper in 1938. Ho is Sing Tao News Corp’s chairman and a member of the Standing Committee of the political advisory body, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. He is known for being outspoken. In September, he said on a television show that the government officials were scared of making decisions and shying away from making use of existing laws to control social unrest as protests escalated into violence on the streets. Extradition bill protests: why have Hong Kong’s business elite and tycoons abandoned Carrie Lam? In 2012, when Leung Chun-ying was elected as chief executive, Ho, who had supported Henry Tang Ying-yen, switched sides and described Leung as a competent leader. Francis Lun Sheung-nim, a broker and the chief executive of Geo Securities, said the most valuable asset of the corporation was Headline Daily , which had the city’s largest market share of free newspapers. The free newspaper had a daily average of 1.07 million readership, or 18 per cent more than the total readership of the other three free newspapers combined, according to its latest financial report. “The motive of the potential buyer obviously is not to make money, it’s an issue of influence of public opinions,” Lun said. Hong Kong’s media companies are struggling to stay profitable due to punishing competition. Next Digital, which publishes Chinese-language Apple Daily, lost HK$340.18 million in the year ended March this year, which was wider than the loss of HK$476.91 million in the previous year. Free-to-air television broadcaster Television Broadcasts or TVB, recorded a HK$199 million loss in 2018 against a HK$243 million net profit in 2017, due to a write-off on investments in bonds.