Sony, News Corp tipped to take stake in ATV

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HONG KONG -- A consortium of U.S. and local Hong Kong investors is set to acquire a stake in ATV, Hong Kong's second terrestrial network, its board of directors confirms.

The statement follows days of high speculation as word leaked out that ATV chairman Lim Por-yen was offload ing part of his 67.5% stake in the company.

Details of the potential buyers and the stake for sale have not been dis closed, but speculation has already pinpointed Sony Pictures Entertainment and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp as likely candidates. Both companies already have major media investments in the Asia re gion.

Hong Kong's foreign ownership regula tions limit foreign-owned voting shares in terrestrial networks to 15%. Equity holdings above 10% have to have Broad casting Authority approval. Foreign equity investments are capped at 49%.

ATV operates two channels - the Canton ese-language ATV Home and the English language ATV World. The channels have about 30% market share against rival TVB, which consistently commands around 70% share.

Although reasons for the ATV sale have not been made public, Mr. Lim's property and hotel conglomerate Lai Sun Garment (International) has been hard hit by the Asian economic meltdown. Mr. Lim is also facing legal problems in Taiwan over bri bery allegations relating to a property development deal.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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