Construction tycoon takes ATV control

Ownership shift may settle stakeholder row

HONG KONG – Hong Kong-based construction materials manufacturer Wong Ben-koon has been approved to acquire a majority stake of Asia Television Ltd., the Broadcasting Authority announced last week.

Wong Ben-koon is the co-founder, executive chairman and CEO of Hong Kong-listed Prosperity Minerals Holdings Ltd.

The 52.4% voting shares of the free-to-air broadcaster were acquired from three existing shareholders: Panfair Holdings Ltd., Dragon Viceroy Ltd. and China Light Group Ltd. 

The transaction marks a settlement of sorts for the shareholding and ownership dispute the long-struggling network faced in the past year, when in March Tsai Eng-meng, the key Taiwan shareholder of the company, who controls 47.58% of the network, filed an interlocutory injunction to stop certain share transfers for the network. This came in response to Chinese tycoon Wang Zheng’s proclamation of buying and developing a China-wide, Mandarin-language channel and turning ATV into Asia’s CNN.

Wang, who is related to Wong, owns convertible bonds of ATV worth HK$200 million (US$25.75 million).  Wang is not involved in the application to the Broadcasting Authority, which was approved and took effect on September 1.

In view of public concerns over the control and management of ATV, the Broadcasting Authority, an independent statutory body, revealed it has written to ATV to express its serious concern over the effective management and control of the company. The Authority reminded ATV of its responsibility as a domestic free television service licensee to respect all statutory requirements and licensing conditions pertaining to management and control, and stressed that ATV should comply with the regulatory requirements under the new shareholding and ownership structure.

ATV is Hong Kong's number two free-to-air broadcaster. Both its Cantonese and English-language channels trail those of Hong Kong's top broadcaster, Television Broadcasts Ltd., also know as TVB.
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