The application round for digital-TV auctions ended with a big surprise when Chan 25, a company owned by media mogul Surang Prempree, opted out, leaving the top-rated Channel 7 TV station with a chance to win.
Earlier, Chan 25's owner insisted she would vie for a variety high-definition (HD) channel.
The move meant a lot to Channel 7, because if Chan 25 had applied, it could have brought down Channel 7 together with it.
Both would have been disqualified for breaking the auctions' cross-shareholding rule.
Apart from Chan 25, Mono TV, Active Post and National Television and Communication did not show up to submit bidding documents on the last application day yesterday.
Surachai Danaitangtrakul, Chan 25's lawyer, went to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's office with a statement saying the company has decided not to join the auctions because regulators insisted on disqualifying both the company and Bangkok Broadcasting and Television (BBTV), the operator of Channel 7.
The NBTC's rules prohibit related parties or entities with more than 10% stakes in cross shareholding from submitting multiple bids in the same category.
Mrs Surang, 71, and her husband Pairoj together hold a 21% stake in BBTV, which has already submitted its application for an HD channel on Monday. BBTV subsidiary BBTV Satelvision Co also tendered bidding documents for a variety standard-definition channel.
Mr Surachai claimed that initially Mrs Surang had intended to join the bid for a variety HD channel and had prepared all documents and the required bank guarantee.
"But she decided to step back because she didn't want to hurt Channel 7 and all loyal staff at the station. After all, her mother Rewadee Tienprapas and her two brothers are the founders of BBTV," Mr Danai said.
After this, the lawyer said Mrs Surang would continue with her content business including soap operas and show productions. Chan 25 is constructing a 200-million-baht studio at her Rewadee School in the Samsen area.
The lawyer said Mrs Surang's 21% stake in BBTV has no management right. She left BBTV by the order of major shareholder Krit Rattanarak after working there for 32 years.
When Chan 25 expressed its intention to join the variety HD channel bidding, BBTV submitted a letter asking Mrs Surang and her husband to sell their stakes to less than 10% to avoid breaking the auctions' rule.
Mrs Surang responded by requesting BBTV to conduct due diligence to determine the fair value of her stake, a normal practice for a share sale worth more than 10 billion baht.
BBTV not only denied the request but said Mrs Surang might have had a dishonest intention of seeking trade secrets for BBTV's rivals.
Instead, BBTV asked her to reduce her holding in Chan 25 to less than 10%, a request she turned down.
Mr Surachai said Mrs Surang still wants to exercise her shareholders' rights in BBTV to scrutinise its operations and commitments to staff.
During the two-day bidding document submission, 29 companies with 41 applications in total tendered their bidding documents to the NBTC.