Liquidators can go ahead with plans to shut down Asia Television and sack the station’s remaining staff, a High Court judge ruled on Thursday.
The decision came two days after High Court judge Mr Justice Jonathan Harris urged accounting firm Deloitte, appointed by the court as a provisional liquidator to restructure the troubled broadcaster, to work out a viable plan with ATV main investor Si Rongbin and major creditor Wong Ching.
“No deal has been reached,” the lawyer representing Si told the court.
Harris said all stakeholders and parties could continue to negotiate, but the court could do nothing unless there was a concrete agreement.
“The provisional liquidators are going to take steps necessary to avoid [ATV] incurring additional liabilities,” the judge said.
It is unclear whether Deloitte will continue its bid to halt ATV’s operations and dismiss its remaining staff.
Wong wants the station liquidated to cover his losses from an incomplete deal with Si, while the mainland investor insisted that the broadcaster should stay in operation at least until its licence expires next month.
Si offered to pay up to HK$8 million to ensure that 120 employees still willing to stay could carry on working until the end of this month.
But Deloitte said ATV would need at least HK$25 million to keep going for that long, adding that the station had owed its staff their salaries for the past two months and had difficulty paying its electricity bills, internet service fees and employment insurance premiums.
Shortly before the court handed down its decision, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government was following up on whether the employment insurance for ATV staff expired last month.
He also said the government would not be lenient with the broadcaster.
“We act in accordance with the law,” he said.
Cheung added that the Labour Department had taken legal action against ATV over the past few months.
He said the department would do its best to help affected staff members, including streamlining the insolvency fund application procedure to speed up the payment of overdue wages.