HONG KONG - In an extraordinary turnaround, a Singapore Appeals Court has slashed to less than $1 million the financial award made to Malaysia's Astro group its long-running pay-TV dispute with Indonesia's Lippo conglomerate. In an earlier arbitration court, Astro had been awarded $250 million.
The protracted battle has made fascinating viewing as it has pitched two of the biggest South East Asian tycoons in a sometimes dirty fight.
Ananda Krishnan, who also owns the Shaw Brothers movie library now operated by Celestial Pictures, and has a major stake in the TGV cinema chain. Lippo, which spans property, energy, finance and newspaper publishing, is controlled by the Christian evangelical Riady family which has close links to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The two companies set up a pay-TV joint venture in 2005, but it ended in 2008 when Astro claimed that Lippo's First Media had failed to pay its share.
Since then Astro, which is the dominant pay-TV group in Malaysia, has taken legal actions in the U.K., Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
In October last year a Singapore upheld the verdict of a dispute resolution tribunal against First Media. Today's judgment, which is final and binding, saw the Court of Appeal rule that the lower court had overstepped its authority and wrongly allowed other Astro affiliates to join the action.