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Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Mumbai: Ending weeks of speculation, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and Network18 on Tuesday announced a complex multi-layered deal, adding momentum to the convergence of media and telecom in India. As part of the deal, Mukesh Ambani's RIL will sell a portion of its stake in Hyderabad-based Eenadu TV to Raghav Bahl-promoted Network-18 for Rs 2,100 crore in cash. It'll give Network18, which runs channels such as CNBC TV18 and CNN-IBN, 100% control in ETV's non-Telugu news, 50% in non-Telugu entertainment channels, and 24.5% in Eenadu Telugu (which has a news and general entertainment channel).IN A NUTSHELL
tRIL sells 100% stake in Eenadu's non-Telugu news and 50% stake in non-Telugu entertainment channels; it also sells 24.5% in Eenadu Telugu as part of a Rs 2,100-crore cash deal with Network18
tPost-deal, RIL will continue to hold 50% stake in entertainment and 24.5% stake in ETV Telugu
tThe deal makes Network18 and TV18 a "debt-free" company (except promoters' debt of Rs 1,700 crore owed to RIL) and RIL will gain preferential access to the content of all media and web properties of Network 18 for its broadband launch RIL gains content for its 4G foray
The RIL-Network18 deal marks the biggest consolidation move in India's broadcast business along with Walt Disney's recent Rs 2,000-crore buyout of UTV Software and STAR TV's acquisition of Asianet Communications three years ago. Network18 will gain broadcasting access to 11 vernacular language channels and expand its overall portfolio to 25 channels. RIL, which is scheduled to launch fourth generation (4G) broadband services, will have exclusive access to the media group's content.
An RIL entity, Independent Media Trust, will extend promoter financing to Bahl, who now embarks on a Rs 4,000-crore rights issue through two listed firms, Network18 Media & Investments Ltd and TV18 Broadcast Ltd, to finance the Eenadu acquisition and to retire debts. Sources said RIL may finance Bahl's investment companies to the extent of Rs 1,700 crore through optionally convertible debentures.
Even after dilution of stake, Bahl will retain 51% in Network 18 Media & Investments and 50% in TV18 Broadcast. Both companies will file draft letters of offer for their respective rights issues shortly, a company statement said on Tuesday. Their cumulative debt is estimated at around Rs 2,300 crore.
Analysts said RIL's involvement with the Network18 Group carried interesting possibilities for the cash-rich, primarily oil-and-gas behemoth. RIL has been increasing its consumer-facing businesses with forays in retail, financial services and telecommunications. Incidentally, RIL's ownership of Eenadu channels was not publicly known till the company disclosed it before the Andhra Pradesh High Court some months ago.
Nimesh Kampani of JM Financial, with the backing of RIL, extended a Rs 2,600-crore lifeline to Hyderabad-based entertainment magnate Ramoji Rao's flagship Ushodaya Enterprises in 2008. This translated into an ownership stake in Eenadu TV following a restructuring deal about a year ago. RIL's involvement with Ramoji Rao's broadcasting business has been a subject matter of speculation and political controversy in Andhra Pradesh.
"As a part of the deal for the acquisition of ETV Channels, Network18 and TV18 have also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Infotel Broadband Services Limited, a subsidiary of RIL, under which the companies and their associates will have the right to distribute the content of all the media and web properties of Network18 and programming and digital content of all the broadcasting channels (including the ETV channels which are being acquired by the company) through 4G broadband network of Infotel," a joint statement from Network18 and TV18 said.
Edelweiss, a brokerage firm, said in a report, "Post the deal, the TV18 bouquet will include more than 25 channels which will boost subscription revenues in both domestic and international markets and impart it higher bargaining power with advertisers. This will enable the company to have a strong pan-India bouquet of channels like Star and ZEE networks and edge ahead of Sony. Key concerns are huge dilution, competition in Kannada and Telugu markets with Sun TV (TV18's distribution partner) and potential merger blues."
Media analysts said the Indian broadcasting industry, pegged at Rs 30,600 crore, has been waiting for a consolidation drive and this deal will pave the way for more action especially in the regional media space. "For RIL's 4G broadband play this gives them a diversified portfolio of genres except sports. And for Network18, it clears them of the heavy debts," said Jehil Thakkar, head, media & entertainment practice, KPMG India, a consultancy firm.
On the Bombay Stock Exchange, RIL gained about 2.4% and closed at Rs 723.70 at the end of trade on Tuesday while Network 18 gained 20%. On the National Stock Exchange, TV 18 Broadcast gained about 20% to close the day's trade at Rs 33.70.
Times NOW and ET NOW, owned by Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, the publisher of this paper, compete with some of the Network 18 channels.
GROUND FOR BROADBAND PUSH
2008 | Backed by RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani, JM Financial's Nimesh Kampani bails out media and entertainment magnate Ramoji Rao with Rs 2,600-crore investment in his flagship Ushodaya Enterprises
2011 | RIL restructures Ushodaya investment; admits to have invested in Ushodaya before HC; gains 100% ownership of Eenadu's non-Telugu channels, and 49% in its Telugu channels
Dec 2011 | News of RIL backing a merger between Raghav Bahl's Network 18 and Eenadu TV surfaces; RIL denies a deal
Jan 3, 2012 | Network 18 announces acquisition of Eenadu's non-Telugu entertainment and news broadcasting business; an RIL trust will finance Bahl's plans to raise Rs 4,000 crore in rights issue to clinch Eenadu buyout
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