Hong Kong’s maverick deal-maker Charles Chan Kwok-keung is planning to sell all his stake in Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) and step down as chairman of the city’s dominant free-to-air broadcaster from next month amid concerns about its business outlook.
The 64-year-old businessman has signed a conditional agreement to sell his interest in Young Lion Holdings, the single largest owner of TVB, the company said in an exchange filing on Wednesday. The sale is part of a proposed reorganisation of interests among the shareholders Young Lion, it added.
The buyer was not disclosed. TVB has not been authorised by the buyer to disclose any details at the moment, a spokeswoman told the Post.
Young Lion is the parent company of Shaw Brothers Limited, which held a 26 per cent stake in the broadcaster, according to the company’s most-recent annual report in 2018. The other two shareholders of Young Lion are vice-chairman Li Ruigang, who is the founder of China Media Capital, and Wang Hsiueh Hong.
TVB took steps to re-engineer its business processes to improve efficiency as the city’s economy fell into a recession, according to an internal memo last month. The move follows criticisms by some quarters on its coverage of the anti-government protests amid the city’s worst political crisis in decades.
TVB announced last month a plan to lay off 350 employees, or 10 per cent of its workforce, to cope with weaker business conditions. It has lost advertisers after online calls to boycott the station for its pro-Beijing bias in the coverage of the city’s extradition bill protests. The company has denied those allegations.
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“The business prospect of TVB is bleak,” said Francis Lun Sheung-nim, chief executive of GEO Securities. “Advertising dollars in the media industry has become very fragmented as money is spent on an ever increasing number of online channels.”
Besides, the city’s younger population hardly spend their time in front of the television, while the political development has not been favourable to TVB, Lun added.
Chan is known for his investment deals involving Hong Kong-listed companies, particularly in the construction, property, media, entertainment and investment sectors, over the past two decades. He received HK$810,000 (US$104,000) in director’s fees in 2018, and drew no salary, bonus or share-based payment, according to TVB annual report.
Chan will cease to be interested in any shares in the company after the Young Lion transaction, TVB said in a filing. He will go into retirement and resign as chairman and non-executive director of the board with effect on February 4, it added. The impending ownership changes in Young Lion are still subject to the approval of the Communications Authority, TVB said.
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Through Young Lion, Chan partnered with US fund Providence Equity Partners and Taiwan’s HTC Corp chairwoman Wang Hsiueh-hong in 2011 to buy a 26 per cent stake in TVB from the late movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw for HK$6.26 billion. Li acquired his interest in Young Lion in April 2015.
Li Ruigang, TVB’s vice-chairman, is often dubbed as China’s Rupert Murdoch. He effectively held a 20 per cent stake in TVB, according to a 2017 ruling report by the Securities and Futures Commission. His Shanghai-based China Media Capital is regarded as mainland China’s most influential media and entertainment investor.
TVB shares gained as much as 8 per cent before ending the day 6.1 per cent higher at HK$12.60. The stock has fallen around 15 per cent in the past year. TVB reported its first net loss in a decade in 2018, due to HK$500 million of losses tied to investment in bonds issued by movies and television dramas producer and distributor SMI Holdings.
This article TVB chairman plans to sell stake in broadcaster, step down from board next month first appeared on South China Morning Post