Asia Television staff expecting their troubled station to close down on Tuesday were told they would have to wait until Thursday for a court to decide whether liquidators can go ahead
The last-minute drama continued as ATV’s main investor offered to pay HK$3 million to ensure 120 staff still willing to stay could carry on working until the end of this month, when the broadcaster’s licence expires.
But court-appointed provisional liquidators from accounting firm Deloitte said ATV would need at least HK$25 million to keep going for that long.
At an emergency hearing on Tuesday afternoon, High Court judge Mr Justice Jonathan Harris extended the suspension of Deloitte’s bid to shut down the station for two more days, responding to ATV’s petition.
The provisional liquidators could not take any action that would result in the broadcaster halting operations before the court heard the case again at 10am on Thursday, Harris said.
He urged them to work out a viable plan with ATV main investor Si Rongbin and major creditor Wong Ching, who wants the company liquidated to cover his losses from an incomplete deal with Si.
“The court is not going to negotiate a deal for you. I will just approve or disapprove,” the judge said.
But Harris Chan, a lawyer representing Deloitte, argued ATV had only HK$200,000 left in its bank account and could be forced to cease operations even before April 1.
It was revealed in court that ATV owed its creditors a total of HK$2 billion – 90 per cent of it to Wong Ching.
Chan said the station had difficulty paying its electricity bills, internet service fees and employment insurance premiums.
“It needs HK$25 million per month to remain in operation,” he said, adding the broadcaster currently had no meaningful sources of income.
Ronald Shum Kwan-ngai, a lawyer from China Culture Media, which is controlled by Si, said the mainland businessman would extend a lifeline with HK$3 million to keep the station on air until the end of this month.
“It is simply because Mr Si doesn’t want the 58-year-old station to disappear overnight,” Shum said.
Si would add another HK$450 million by the end of March for ATV’s future development if the station could successfully avoid being wound up.
Deloitte handed out termination notices to 130 of ATV’s remaining 250 employees who turned up for a meeting with the professional managers on Monday afternoon.
It is unclear whether the termination, supposed to be effective immediately, would be revoked.
Si’s representatives, together with ATV staff, questioned the provisional liquidators’ conduct in performing their duties and the costs incurred since their appointment began last week.