Newly founded Chinese-language news site HK01 has expressed an interest in working with the i-Cable television channel, after rumours of a potential acquisition of the channel by the news site’s owner emerged on Tuesday.

Listed company Wharf Holdings, which owns the TV station, said in its 2015 final results in March that the group had commenced a strategic review to enhance its communications, media and entertainment businesses, as the market “has changed drastically.” It led to speculation as to whether the company was planning to sell the businesses.

Citing “credible sources,” East Week magazine carried a report on Tuesday claimed that Yu Pun-hoi – owner of HK01 – was interested in purchasing Wharf’s communications and media companies, including i-Cable and the new free-to-air channel Fantastic Television. The deal may cost more than HK$10 billion, the report added.

Yu Pun-hoi. File

The report also quoted sources as saying that Yu was interested in the i-Cable brand for its influence in Hong Kong, in order to build a “media empire” including online media, newspaper and television. Both parties were discussing a price, the sources said.

In response to the report, HK01 said: “[We] have been planning to develop video content, thus we would consider any opportunities that could help with such developments.”

“The shareholders of i-Cable television were reportedly reviewing the businesses in this area – we are naturally interested in looking into whether there will be opportunities for cooperation between HK01 and i-Cable television, so as to provide the best media content for the public,” it added.

Photo: i-Cable news screenshot.

i-Cable television began broadcasting in October 1993, and is generally considered a liberal-leaning media station.

HK01 started planning its launch last year. Its website launched in January and a weekly publication began in March. Often carrying breaking news, investigative reports and political gossip stories citing unidentified sources, the site was sometimes criticised for its conservative, if not pro-Beijing editorials. It courted controversy after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was spotted at the newspaper’s launch party.

Though Yu has many business ties on the mainland, its chief editor has said that the site does not belong to any side on the Hong Kong political spectrum.

Photo: HK01 screenshot.

Yu, the former owner of Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao, is the chairman of two Hong Kong listed companies – Nan Hai Corporation and Sino-i Technology.

Nan Hai runs properties and cinema businesses in China, whilst a subsidiary runs HK01 and another Chinese news site, DW News, which focuses on China.

As a new media company, HK01 was known for hiring a large number of journalists – reportedly some 300 staff members – from traditional Hong Kong media. It also attracted eyeballs when it launched massive ad campaigns around the city, during a time when traditional media were either shrinking or closing down due to falling profits.

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.