Astro set to separate int'l investments

Rose Major

Astro All Asia Networks, Malaysia’s leading pay-TV operator, is set to spin off its international investments into a privately-held unit, according to market rumours which are reaching fever pitch.

Astro has a number of international investments, including a stake in Indian DTH venture Sun Direct TV and Celestial Pictures in Hong Kong. Celestial Pictures owns the Shaw Brothers Film Library, the world’s largest Chinese-language film library, as well as an international pay-TV channel, Celestial Movies Channel.

The spin-off would reportedly see Astro’s two major shareholders, tycoon Ananda Krishnan’s Usaha Tegas and Malaysian state-owned Khazanah Holdings, acquire Astro’s international interests, separating them from the profitable domestic holdings. Company shareholders will reportedly receive RM1 (US$0.28) per share as part of the deal.

Astro has had a few problems with international ventures. An investment in Indonesia, PT Direct Vision ended, with joint venture partner the Lippo Group and Astro in dispute over whether Astro should have compensation for the failed venture.