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Nation Group to sue NBTC over hostile takeover bid

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Nation Group to sue NBTC over hostile takeover bid | Thaiger


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Nation Group to sue NBTC over hostile takeover bid
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The Nation Multimedia Group (NMG) will petition the Administrative Court against three members of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission’s broadcasting committee for alleged dereliction of duty in deciding the legitimacy of SLC’s stake in NMG.

The three members named in the petition will be Colonel Natee Sukonrat, who is chairman of the NBTC’s broadcasting committee, Pol Colonel Taweesak Ngamsanga, and Lt-General Peerapong Manakit.

All three will be accused of violating Articles 31 and 32 of the Broadcasting Business Act of 2008 and the criteria used for selection of those who can be stockholders and stakeholders before and after the digital TV bidding. They are being accused of failing to enforce the law, leading to the danger of dominance in the media and also of violating free and fair business competition.

Under the rules governing the auction of digital TV licences, a major shareholder was not allowed to hold more than 10 per cent of other companies in the same licence category. The “major shareholder” is not only defined as a person or juristic person allowed to have ownership of not more than 10 per cent of the company, but also mutual beneficiaries. The SLC and its subsidiaries wholly own Spring News digital TV.

NMG yesterday said in a statement that the broadcasting committee’s working group on February 11 had disclosed about the shareholding of SLC and the people who will share the benefit in NMG, with a combined stake of more than 35 per cent. They comprise SLC with 12.27 per cent share, Wattana Capital Plc – which later changed its name to Polaris Capital Plc – with 7.54 per cent, and other individuals who share the benefit with SLC with a combined stake of 16.31 per cent. Together they have at least a 36 per cent stake in NMG and have become major shareholders with the power to control and have a significant impact on NMG’s business in the future.

The move came after the broadcasting regulator yesterday decided not to take any legal action in the controversial case regarding the alleged violation by News Network Corporation (NEWS), formerly known as Solution Corner (1998), or SLC, of the rules covering the auction of digital-TV licences. The decision on the legitimacy of the acquisition of a 12.27-per-cent stake in NMG by SLC was delayed twice since last year.

Two of the five members of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s broadcasting committee – Supinya Klangnarong and Thawatchai Jittrapanun – voted at yesterday’s meeting that the digital TV auction rules against hegemony should remain valid. Two other members – Natee and Thaweesak – abstained on the grounds that the auction’s rules for digital TV licences should not be enforced after the fact.

Natee earlier said the agenda item on the enforcement of rules should not deserve consideration.

However, Peerapong, as a swing member, voted against applying the rules against NEWS.

“The meeting’s outcome was 2:2:1, so the committee cannot take any action on the case,” said Sombat Leelapata, acting deputy secretary-general of the broadcasting committee.

On December 22, three of the committee’s five members – Supinya, Thawatchai and Peerapong – voted to table the case for consideration later.

Peerapong’s “no” vote at yesterday’s meeting was considered a surprise. But he reasoned that SLC was deemed to hold no controlling power over NMG, as it owns only 12.27 per cent. He said SLC held an equity stake in NMG, not in NBC Next Vision Co (NNV), which is a holder of a digital-TV licence.

NNV is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nation Broadcasting Corporation, which is a 70-per-cent-owned subsidiary of NMG. Sombat said Peerapong took the view that there was no evidence of SLC taking control of NBC Next Vision in terms of its shareholding structure.

Supinya and Thawatchai disagreed with Peerapong, saying there was evidence from legal and educational organisations that SLC has controlling power over NNV.

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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