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Fued between M'sian and Indonesia firm continues in HK

Publication Date : 30-01-2014

 

A US$250 million court battle between a Malaysian media group and a major Indonesian conglomerate that recently ended in Singapore could soon see a sequel, this time in Hong Kong.

The high court there on Wednesday ordered a $44 million claim that had been due to Malaysia's Astro to be suspended.

This was to allow it to consider the latest Singapore ruling on the case, which left Astro with just a fraction of the about $250 million it had originally won from the Lippo group in arbitration in Singapore.

The saga began when a pay-TV joint venture inked in 2005 between Astro and First Media, a subsidiary of Lippo, soured two years later.

Between May 2009 and August 2010, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre made five awards in Astro's favour, allowing it to recoup about $250 million it had sunk into the deal.

The Malaysian firm then went to Hong Kong to enforce its claim against Lippo's assets, and in 2010 received permission to do so from the court there.

Meanwhile, the case continued to play out here. First, the high court agreed with the original arbitration in 2012, when Lippo's First Media pushed its case.

When Lippo appealed, the saga took a major twist last year. In October, the Court of Appeal ruled that Astro was entitled to only about 0.3 per cent of the about $250 million it had sought - which amounted to $750,000.

Presided by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, the appeal court found that three of the eight units under Astro making most of the claims against Lippo were not parties to the arbitration agreement.

But that same day, Astro succeeded in applying for a garnishee order in Hong Kong on a $44 million loan made by First Media in 2011 to its parent company AcrossAsia. That gave Astro the right to claim the loan, which it alleged was made to make it hard to enforce the arbitration decision.

But this was suspended last week after the Hong Kong court said it needed to assess the judgement by Singapore's Court of Appeal and how it affects Astro's overall claims in Hong Kong against Lippo.

"Injustice will result if the debtor and the garnishee should have to make payment... and later find themselves in the position of being unable to recover it from Astro, which is not resident in Hong Kong," said Justice Mimmie Chan of the Hong Kong high court in judgement grounds released yesterday.

Noting the "matter had already taken up too much time", she added that First Media has "good prospects of success in its application to set aside" the enforcement of the arbitration award.

 

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