Court delays PCCW buyout to allow vote-rigging probe

Richard Li's proposed PCCW buyout has been put on hold to give market investigators more time to probe vote-tampering allegations.

A Hong Kong judge has postponed the hearing to approve the $2.2 billion buyout bid by Richard Li's PCRD and China Unicom until April 1, the Financial Times said. The deal will lapse if not completed by April 23.

Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) will have to file any charges at least a week before the hearing to give PCCW time to respond. The extension will also apply to any shareholders or creditors who wish to object to the deal.

The SFC launched an investigation of the deal earlier this month, after it was revealed that thousands of shares had been transferred to hundreds of employees of insurance company Fortis, which two years ago acquired Pacific Century Insurance from Li. PCCW said it was conducting its own investigation into the allegation.

Around 62% of shareholders, together holding 82% of the shares which voted, approved the HK$4.50 per share offer.