China-affiliate firm makes 2nd takeover bid for EBC

By Christine Chou, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Eastern Media International Corp. (EMI, 東森國際) plans to sell its 21.31-percent stake in the largest television network in Taiwan, Eastern Broadcasting Co. (EBC, 東森電視), to the mainland Chinese-affiliated firm DMG Entertainment, EMI announced on Friday. The companies have scheduled to close the deal during the first quarter of next year, but the acquisition must first gain approval from two regulatory bodies: the Investment Commission (IC, 投審會) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA, 經濟部) and the National Communications Commission (NCC, 國家通訊傳播委員會), according to local media reports. At its board meeting, EMI decided to sell its stake for around US$600 million (about NT$18.3 billion). After reducing debt, the sale is expected to provide a profit of NT$3.26 billion for the firm next year, according to EMI Vice General Manager Cheng Yin-na (鄭應娜). Dan Mintz, chief executive of DMG Entertainment, previously confirmed he had reached a deal with EBC’s majority stakeholder, the Carlyle Group, to purchase its 61-percent stake in the broadcaster for US$600 million. If the proposed sales by EMI and Carlyle pass regulatory approval, DMG Entertainment would control more than 80 percent of EBC shares.

Upon completion, the sum of the transactions would make it the largest television network merger in Taiwan’s history.

The NCC said on Friday that it had not yet received an application for the purchase.

EBC currently owns 20 channels, with eight in Taiwan, including one news channel, ETTV (東森新聞). Target for Stringent Review: MOEA Chang Ming-bin (張銘斌), executive secretary of the Investment Commission, said that although Mintz is a U.S. citizen, DMG is a major media corporation in mainland China. “If the distinction between the two is not made clear, (the Commission) will target the buyout for a more stringent review.” Currently, mainland firms or individuals are prohibited from investing in Taiwan’s media assets, said Chang. ‘Hollywood’s Mr. China’ Dubbed “Hollywood’s Mr. China” by Forbes Magazine, Mintz co-founded the DMG Group in 1993 as an advertising agency in mainland China. Lately, the group has diversified into film, and Mintz is known for acting as a bridge between Hollywood and the Chinese movie industry. Mintz is also a co-executive producer of the Hollywood feature film “Iron Man 3.” Amid fears that the takeover bid would be a stalking horse for the Beijing government, Mintz said he is making the EBC acquisitions in a personal capacity, denying any “Chinese influences.” Another DMG co-founder, Peter Xiao (肖文閣), a successful mainland financier and the current chairman of DMG’s division in China, has links to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, IC officials said in a previous statement. According to local media, Mintz is currently on a business trip in Taiwan.