Court ruling brings curtain down on Malaysian tycoon's US$130m legal battle

The Court of Final Appeal allowed an appeal by Lippo's PT First Media TBK against Malaysian billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan 's Astro Group.
The Court of Final Appeal allowed an appeal by Lippo's PT First Media TBK against Malaysian billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan 's Astro Group.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

SINGAPORE - A decision by Hong Kong's highest court has ended long-running attempts by Malaysian billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan to enforce a US$130 million judgment against Indonesia's Lippo group.

The Court of Final Appeal allowed an appeal by Lippo's PT First Media TBK against Mr Krishnan's Astro Group.

The move on Wednesday (April 11) effectively means Astro has lost its ability to enforce the US$130 million award in Hong Kong. It also lost in the Singapore Court of Appeal in 2013.

The saga began in 2010 after the failure of a joint pay-TV venture between Astro and Indonesian tycoon James Riady of the Lippo Group.

A Singapore arbitration panel ruled that Lippo units should pay Astro about US$130 million (S$182 million). That was reduced on appeal to about US$700,000.

In 2010, before this ruling, Astro asked a Hong Kong court to enforce the Singapore award and seize any Hong Kong-based assets linked to First Media.

First Media initially believed it did not have any assets in Hong Kong so did not challenge the order within the stipulated deadline.

In 2011, Astro successfully applied to garnish US$44 million in assets from AcrossAsia, a Hong Kong-listed affiliate that owed the money to First Media.

It prompted First Media to apply to get an extension of time so it could challenge the order.

That began a series of legal gambits by First Media to overturn this order, including one in January asking that it be allowed to make its case at Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal.

That failed but First Media then took its case to the Appeal Committee, which granted leave for First Media to argue its case before the Court of Final Appeal.

The court ruled unanimously on Wednesday to allow the appeal and set aside the orders of courts below.

The ruling, which goes to several points of law, means Astro has no further avenues to pursue in having the US$130 million judgment enforced in Hong Kong or Singapore.