Next Media to sell Taiwan print, TV business for $600 million

HONG KONG Wed Oct 17, 2012 5:43am EDT

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Next Media Ltd, controlled by Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, will sell its Taiwan newspaper, magazine and television assets to Chinatrust Financial's former vice-chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr for NT$17.5 billion ($600 million).

Koo has entered into an agreement to buy the assets, including Next Magazine and Apple Daily, the company said in a statement on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Next Media has agreed to a 3-year undertaking under which the company and chairman Lai will not own or control any firm in the Taiwanese print media or television markets, the firm said.

"The possible transaction allows the company to rationalize and focus its resources on the group's operations in Hong Kong and also in further developing its digital content-related businesses", Next Media said in a statement.

The company has terminated an earlier memorandum of understanding with another potential buyer, Lien Tai-sheng, regarding the sale of its TV division in Taiwan, it added.

The move comes weeks after Lai said he was selling his Taiwanese television business - which is best known for its animated takes on political and celebrity scandals - as a result of financial losses.

Next Animations won global exposure when its take on golfer Tiger Woods' troubles was widely viewed on YouTube in 2010.

Lai is persona non grata in China, from where he fled at the age of 12 and was smuggled by boat into Hong Kong.

Shares in Next Media, which last closed on Monday at HK$1.12, were due to resume trade on Thursday. The stock is up nearly 65 percent so far this year, outpacing a 16 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

($1 = 7.7512 Hong Kong dollars)

(Reporting by Twinnie Siu and Donny Kwok; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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