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Hong Kong legislators are to take the unusual step of publicly examining whether minority shareholders in PCCW were short-changed when control of the territory’s dominant telecoms operator changed hands last week.
The investigation follows the surprise sale for HK$9.2bn (£640m) of a 23 per cent controlling stake in PCCW by Richard Li to Francis Leung, an investment banker.
Hong Kong’s politicians rarely focus on corporate deals and their interest highlights the high level of concern surrounding the unusual nature of the transaction and worries over meddling by Beijing. TPG Newbridge of the US and Australia’s Macquarie Bank last month offered more than HK$60bn for the telecoms and media assets of PCCW.
However, a possible lucrative bidding war was cut short after Singapore-listed Pacific Century Regional Developments, which is 75 per cent owned by Mr Li, sold its entire holding in PCCW to Mr Leung, a veteran banker perceived to be well connected with tycoons in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
Mr Leung, who is not considered rich enough to personally fund the deal, is under pressure to name his backers. In addition, legislators are concerned by possible involvement by Beijing after state-controlled China Netcom, which owns 20 per cent of PCCW, acted to thwart the sale of assets to the overseas groups.
Legislators in Hong Kong plan to convene a joint meeting of the information technology and financial affairs committees early next month to cross-examine senior bureaucrats from the commerce and treasury departments as well the bosses from the telecommunications regulator and stock exchange.