PCCW Shares Surge After Government Awards Broadcasting License

PCCW Ltd. shares jumped by the most in 17 months in Hong Kong trading after the government awarded the company a free-to-air television broadcasting license.

Richard Li’s PCCW rose as much as 8.6 percent after the government Wednesday gave its unit a 12-year license to operate two channels that broadcast over the air. Shares of I-Cable Communications Ltd. also rose on optimism it will get final approval for its permit first granted in 2013.

Hong Kong is seeking to retain choices in its non-cable television market after the government yesterday decided against renewing Asia Television Ltd.’s free-to-air license, leaving the city with one such broadcaster. Thousands had marched in protest in 2013 when the government rejected Hong Kong Television Network Ltd.’s application for a license.

“We hope that HKTVE’s entry into the free TV market will benefit our audience-at-large with more quality programming choices,” Commerce Secretary Gregory So said at a briefing yesterday, referring to the PCCW unit.

PCCW shares traded 6 percent higher at HK$5.08 at 9:48 a.m. local time. I-Cable rose 4 percent to 77 Hong Kong cents. Shares of Hong Kong Television Network plunged 9.6 percent to HK$3.03 after yesterday gaining on bets that it may invest in ATV.

The government decided against renewing ATV’s license because it failed to provide concrete restructuring proposals before a deadline, So said yesterday. This is the first time Hong Kong has decided against renewing a broadcast permit, he said.

Owners of Asia Television, the city’s first Chinese-language broadcaster, have been seeking investors as the company struggled to attract advertisers and failed to pay wages to staff.

The government’s decision was announced after Derek Lai, a court-appointed manager from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, said on Wednesday that ATV’s majority shareholders signed an agreement to sell to an investor, whom he didn’t identify. Deloitte last night said it was “disappointed” about the decision after making every effort to find an investor.

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