Fireworks to light up ATV

New shareholding structure approved

HONG KONG — Media investment group Fireworks Intl. and the Cha family are set to take controlling stakes in Hong Kong’s No. 2 free-to-air broadcaster Asia Television (ATV). New shareholding structure was approved Tuesday by the Hong Kong government.

ATV has been looking for new investors as it struggles against dominant Television Broadcasts (TVB). The unlisted company is controlled by chief executive Chan Wing-kee and Liu Changle, chairman of Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings.

The Cha family, which has interests in property and textiles, had been announced as heading the takeover bid alongside content producer Soft-Trek and Dutch bank ABN-Amro as financial partner. Latest announcement shows the ABN-Amro-backed Fireworks as having a much larger role.

As part of the new structure, Alnery No. 112, Panfair Holdings and China Light Group will take 47.6%, 10.8% and 14.8%, respectively. Alnery is financed by Fireworks and owned by Pelaka Investments, which is in turn owned by brothers Payson Cha and Johnson Cha, FireWorks and Louis Rajkumar Page.

Fireworks is a Hong Kong-based North Asian media holding company that is initially funded by ABN-Amro and which last month was revealed as having invested some $50 million to make South Korea’s Taewon Entertainment its Asian movie investment vehicle (Daily Variety, May 20).

“The injection of working capital from the new investors will help make ATV financially healthier and will assist ATV to improve the quality of its television program service in terms of choice and variety and implement its digital terrestrial television plan to launch four more standard-definition television channels and some high-definition television contents shortly,” said a government spokesman.

The Cha brothers also jointly own Panfair, which essentially gives the family a controlling 58.33% stake. The elder Payson Cha is slated to become chairman of ATV.

The almost 15% stake for China Light, a subsidiary of Citic Group, which is controlled by the China State Council, required approval by the Hong Kong government as China Light is a nondomestic shareholder.

The government also approved two Citic directors to sit on ATV’s board: Hong Kong resident Sun Yalei, a director of Citic Group, and Yang Gang, a director of media unit Citic Guoan.

Deal is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

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