Related News

Home » Business » IT

HK court blocks Richard Li's move to take PCCW private

A HONG Kong tycoon's controversial US$2-billion effort to take over telecommunications firm PCCW was blocked by a court yesterday after securities regulators claimed the deal was marred by vote-rigging.

The ruling by a three-judge appeals panel overturned a lower court's decision approving the buyout led by company Chairman Richard Li.

It was the latest turn in a corporate drama that has dominated headlines in this Asian finance capital - and a blow to Li, the son of one of Asia's richest men, Li Ka-shing. The ruling frustrates his latest attempt to take private or sell part of a telecom firm that never lived up to its aspiration as a regional high-tech powerhouse.

Since its approval by shareholders in February, the deal has been dogged by criticism Li was dramatically undervaluing PCCW, the city's major landline operator, and claims the vote was rigged to inflate support.

Hong Kong's securities watchdog, the Securities and Futures Commission, opened an investigation and sought to halt the deal in a high-profile case of court intervention by the city's regulators.

The commission maintained the vote was unfairly manipulated after about a half a million PCCW shares were doled out to employees of Fortis Insurance Company (Asia) Ltd in an effort to sway votes. An executive who distributed the shares has ties to Li's associates.

A court ruled in favor of Li and his buyout team earlier this month. It said there was lack of evidence to support the regulator's case and that the practice of splitting votes wasn't strictly illegal.

But regulators, saying they didn't oppose the deal but objected to the lower court's decision backing vote splitting, quickly appealed.

In six days of hearings leading to yesterday's decision, appeals judges repeatedly questioned the rationale behind the effort to take PCCW private. They criticized the plan as an "outrageous" attempt to squeeze out small shareholders and called the buyout price "rock-bottom."

Small investors, many of them who sunk part of their life savings into PCCW shares, were given three days to air their objections.

The appeal court's decision was given verbally in court, with its full judgment yet to be released.

PCCW issued a statement say it was "disappointed" by the ruling.



Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend