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HK Apple Daily

China tightens grip on Hong Kong media with Phoenix TV stake

China’s new Hong Kong-based media holding company will buy a fifth of Phoenix TV, with Macao casino heiress Pansy Ho taking a slightly smaller stake in the publicly listed satellite broadcaster as Beijing tightens its grip on the city’s media industry.

Liu Changle, the founder and chairman of Phoenix Media Investment, agreed to sell almost all of his 38.08% stake in deals struck on Friday and Saturday, the company said in a statement to Hong Kong’s stock exchange on Sunday.

Bauhinia Culture, a publisher run by the central government in Beijing, will buy about 21% of Phoenix for HK$640 million (US$82.4 million), at 61 Hong Kong cents per share, according to the statement.

The company’s shares closed at 78 cents on Friday, though they had been trading below 50 cents for most of the past year before surging in February.

Common Sense, a wholly owned subsidiary of Shun Tak Holdings run by Beijing loyalist Pansy Ho, a daughter of late Macao casino mogul Stanley Ho, will buy a 16.9% stake at the same price for HK$516 million, the statement said.

Phoenix Media Investment operates Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, a satellite TV broadcaster that offers Putonghua and Cantonese channels for mainland China, Hong Kong and overseas markets.

The broadcaster was founded by Liu, a former Chinese army officer, in 1996.

Bauhinia Culture was set up by China’s State Council in February as a holding company for pro-Beijing publishers, bookstores and a film production firm in Hong Kong.

The new company was part of Beijing’s plans to enhance its soft power and foster pro-Beijing sentiment in Hong Kong, the Sing Tao Daily newspaper reported earlier.

In a move to tighten editorial procedures, Beijing last month appointed Li Haitang, a senior official at the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, as editor of Bauhinia Magazine, a monthly publication newly incorporated into Bauhinia Culture.

Acquisitions similar to Phoenix Television’s would continue as Beijing steps up its propaganda efforts in Hong Kong, political scientist Ivan Choy said.

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