Apple Daily publisher Next Digital not ceasing operations, after all

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Next Digital Ltd, which is owned by now-jailed media tycoon and activist Jimmy Lai, said the firm isn’t ceasing operations and apologised to staff for an earlier “wrong message,” according to an internal memo seen by Bloomberg.

On Wednesday (June 30), the listed Hong Kong company sent employees a memo saying it would cease operations on July 1. Next Digital is the publisher of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which closed last week after Hong Kong authorities used a China-imposed national security law to arrest top editors and executives.

Reuters

“Regarding the email dated on June 30 mentioning that the group would cease operations, the department hereby clarified that the group is not ceasing operations, but making personnel arrangements,” it wrote in a memo sent to staff late Thursday night, adding that it would follow labour rules in terms of settling compensation and payroll issues.

“We also extend apologies for the wrong message,” the memo said.

A representative from Next Digital didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.

In a stock exchange filing late Wednesday, Next Digital said it plans to sell the offices of Taiwan Apple Daily to an undisclosed buyer.

On Tuesday, the company said it had accepted a non-binding proposal to sell Amazing Sino International, publisher of Taiwan Apple Daily. It didn’t name the buyer.

Next Digital shares have been suspended since June 17.

Under Hong Kong trading rules, the city’s exchange operator can cancel a listing if a company goes into liquidation or if a firm’s business “is no longer suitable for listing,” among other reasons. In such a scenario, a firm’s outstanding shares can move onto an over-the-counter system that allows shareholders to dispose of their stock typically at a steep discount – should they find any buyers at all.

The Hong Kong stock exchange kicked out at least 12 stocks from its main board this year, with another five companies in the queue as of May 31, according to its website. That excludes voluntary delistings or companies that were taken private. Some 2,186 firms traded on the city’s main board.