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Aw To Sell Sing Tao Holding Stake

March 24, 1999

HONG KONG (AP) _ A beleagured Hong Kong tycoon plans to sell her publishing interests to an investment bank in a $67 million deal designed to rescue her from bankruptcy claims.

Sally Aw agreed Wednesday to sell her 50.02 percent stake in Sing Tao Holding Ltd. to a subsidiary of Lazard Asia Ltd. after talks collapsed with a bidding group led by U.S. financier Sam Zell.

Sing Tao publishes the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily News as well as the English-language Hong Kong Standard.

Aw had previously turned down an overture from Lazard in favor of the bid from Zell and his partners, but regulators killed the deal because it involved an offer for just part of Sing Tao rather than all shares as required under Hong Kong takeover rules.

Shareholders are expected to meet as early as next month to decide whether to accept Lazard’s offer, being made through subsidiary Astral Light Investment, a source close to Sing Tao said on condition of anonymity.

If the deal succeeds, it could end a running drama that pitted two prominent Hong Kong families against one another.

Aw, the heiress to a Hong Kong fortune that began with a cure-all ointment known as Tiger Balm, may avoid further legal proceedings in a suit filed by another wealthy Hong Kong family after selling her shares.

Aw was sued in bankruptcy court on Jan. 7 by Yosham Ltd., a private investment group run by Charles Ho, a Hong Kong tobacco tycoon’s grandson who reportedly had lent Aw $37.7 million.

Yosham filed the suit after Aw turned down an initial offer from Lazard, but now is expected to withdraw the suit.

Aw’s troubles have not been confined to bankruptcy court. Three executives of the Hong Kong Standard recently were jailed for inflating circulation figures to cheat advertisers. Aw was named as a co-conspirator although she never was indicted,

Aw, 67, recently agreed to sell the historic Tiger Balm Gardens _ a private park featuring statues of Chinese deities _ to property tycoon Li Ka-shing.

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