FTC OKs sale of biggest cable TV operator

The China Post news staff

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday gave conditional approval to the proposed sale of Taiwan’s biggest cable TV operator to one of the island’s richest families, but the National Communication Commission (NCC) has yet to okay the deal.

The FTC laid down 13 antitrust conditions while approving the proposed acquisition of Kbro by Daniel Tsai and his brother Richard from the family that controls Fubon Financial Holding. The FTC said it does not oppose the Tsai family’s buyout of the cable TV operator via the Da-fu Media that the brothers recently established, but monopoly concerns need to be addressed. According to the conditions, without FTC approval, Da-fu Media cannot hold or acquire, directly or indirectly, shares of any other cable TV companies or Taiwan Mobile, which is also controlled by the family. Daniel is chairman of Fubon Financial Holding, and Richard heads Taiwan Mobile. Fubon declined to comment on the FTC’s decision, saying it was not in a position to talk about Da-fu’s business, according to the United Evening News.

Da-Fu reportedly is offering NT$65.3 billion to buy Kbro from the Carlyle Group, a deal which will make them the most influential cable TV group in Taiwan. The brothers’ previous attempt to buy Kbro via Taiwan Mobile was blocked by the NCC citing a law prohibiting government ownership of media establishments. The NCC noted that Taipei City holds a 15-percent stake in Fubon Financial Holding, which is the majority shareholder of the telecom carrier.

The brothers set up Da-fu recently to circumvent the law. FTC spokeswoman Shih Hui-fen said if the acquisition goes through, the Tsai family’s market share will not exceed 33 percent of Taiwan’s total cable TV subscribers. The number of channels they own will not exceed 25 percent of the total number of available cable TV channels, Shih added. NCC spokesman Chen Cheng-tsang said the communications authorities would not comment on the FTC’s decision. But the NCC will follow legislative communications committee’s resolution that no decision should be made until public hearings are held to gauge opinions about the acquisition. The NCC in early October reviewed the Kbro deal, but some experts and scholars invited to the review expressed antitrust concerns. Chen said that the NCC on Monday held another round of review, but declined to disclose the details of the meeting.