, a Hong Kong multimedia company owned by the territory's richest tycoon, Li Ka-shing, is buying a 32.75% stake in local free-to-air broadcaster Asia Television (ATV).

The move marks Li's first foray into TV broadcasting and forms part of's diversification strategy. The company was listed as an internet portal in March 2000 but has since expanded into book and magazine publishing and outdoor advertising. has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hong Kong property giant, Lai Sun Development, to buy its ATV stake in exchange for 87.2 million new shares worth $37.2m (HK$290m). It has also agreed to buy 50% of the station's web-site for ($9.04m (HK$70.5m).

Phoenix Satellite TV chairman, Liu Changle, recently grabbed a controlling stake in ATV after buying out his former partner and ATV CEO Feng Xiaoping.

The deal, which is still awaiting regulatory approval, raised concerns about mainland China's growing influence on Hong Kong media as Liu has close central government ties and is a former official of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Analysts believe that Li's arrival at the station could help it become a stronger competitor to Hong Kong's leading free-to-air broadcaster, TVB. ATV currently holds only a 24% share of the audience compared to 63% for Sir Run Run Shaw's TVB.

However, as Li owns commercial radio station Metro Broadcast, he could be prevented from acquiring the ATV stake under cross-media ownership rules.

Li's flagship companies, Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong Holdings, had a combined turnover of $8.85bn last year. His son, Richard Li, is chairman of Hong Kong telecoms giant Pacific Century CyberWorks.

The Lai Sun group, headed by Lim Por-yen, also owns Media Asia controlling shareholder, eSun Holdings. Lim became the biggest shareholder in ATV in 1994, but relinquished control to mainland property developer Xiaoping in 1998.