Asia Television (ATV) has announced that the a mainland China-based investor is buying 52.41 percent of shares in the company and would be injecting HK$5.1 billion of capital in the future. Despite this, only 80 percent of the staff have received their August pay cheques.

ATV executive director Ip Ka-po said on Wednesday that an agreement has been reached between former major shareholder Wong Ben-koon and Shandong-based China Culture Media International, to which Wong agreed to sell his shares.

Despite new investment coming into ATV, only 80 percent of the staff have received their pay for August, which is against the Employment Ordinance under Hong Kong law.

ATV’s new major shareholder Si Rongbin. Photo: Wikimedia Commons & Apple Daily.

The Communications Authority confirmed it received ATV’s application for a shareholder change. ATV had not applied for a new free-to-air licence, reported Apple Daily.

Ip did not say when the company would be able to settle the overdue August salaries, but said he believed the new investment could solve the problem and that “staff could earn much more in the future.”

The new majority shareholder will pump HK$5.1 billion into ATV in the next six years to buy new equipment and produce programmes.

China Culture Media International is a subsidiary of Sino Finance International Investment, which is in turn owned by Chinese conglomerate Qingdao Sino Group. Shandong tycoon Si Rongbin is chairman of the group.

Chinese media Caixin reported that Si was detained by authorities in the mainland for criminal acts, including allegedly using forgeries of a company seal and signature of a legal representative to obtain RMB7.7 million (HK$9.35 million) in bank loans in August 2003, as well as suspected false payment of salaries in July 2004.

ATV’s continuous troubles

ATV previously delayed salary payment from September to December 2014. In December 2014, accounting firm Deloitte was appointed to manage ATV as a result of a High Court order.

The government decided not to renew ATV’s free-to-air licence after 58 years. Its current license expires in April 2016. The broadcaster still harbours plans to re-apply.

However, it is currently also applying to become a web TV station. It will face competition from HKTV and newcomers Netflix and LeTV.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.