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Paramount Global to sell 13% stake in Indian TV business to Reliance Industries for ₹4,286 cr

Paramount Global to sell 13% stake in Indian TV business to Reliance Industries for ₹4,286 cr
New Delhi, Paramount Global has agreed to sell its 13 per cent stake in its Indian TV business to Reliance Industries for Rs 4,286 crore, the Indian firm said on Thursday. In a stock exchange filing, Reliance said it has signed a binding agreement with two subsidiaries of Paramount Global to acquire 13.01 per cent equity stake of Viacom 18 Media Private Limited held by Paramount Global.

Similarly, in a filing on the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Paramount Global said the closing of the transaction is subject to the satisfaction of certain customary conditions, including receipt of applicable regulatory approvals, as well as the completion of a previously announced joint venture involving Reliance, Viacom18 and Star Disney.

"After the closing, Paramount will continue to license its content to Viacom18," it added.

In its stock exchange filing, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) said Viacom18 is a material subsidiary of TV18 Broadcast Ltd. The company currently holds compulsorily convertible preference shares of Viacom18 representing 57.48 per cent equity stake on a fully diluted basis.

Post the completion of this transaction, the company's equity stake in Viacom18 will increase to 70.49 per cent on a fully diluted basis.

Earlier in February, Walt Disney Co and Reliance Industries had announced the signing of binding pacts to merge their media operations in India to create a Rs 70,000 crore behemoth.

Under the deal, that came just over a month after the failed USD 10 billion merger of rivals Zee and Sony, Reliance and its affiliates will hold 63.16 per cent in the combined entity that will house two streaming services and 120 television channels.

Disney will hold the remaining 36.84 per cent, the companies had said.

As part of the transaction, the media undertaking of Viacom18 would be merged into Star India Pvt Ltd (SIPL) through a court-approved scheme of arrangement.

Reliance had also agreed to invest at closing Rs 11,500 crore into the joint venture to give it the muscle to fight rivals such as Japan's Sony and Netflix. The combined entity will have the largest OTT subscriber base.

Media ventures of Reliance are currently housed in Network 18, which owns TV18 news channels as well as a plethora of entertainment (under the 'Colors' brand) and sports channels. NW18 also has stakes in, bookmyshow and publishes magazines. Its subsidiary NW18 owns the news channels CNBC/CNNNews.

In 2014, RIL had acquired majority stake in media group Network18 from its erstwhile promoters, including its founder Raghav Bahl, for Rs 4,000 crore. Prior to this in 2007, TV18, a part of Newtwork18 group, had formed a joint venture with Viacom targetting hindi general entertainment category.

Reliance separately owns a movie production arm - JioStudios, and majority stakes in two listed cable distribution companies, Den and Hathway.

The JV between Walt Disney and RIL will be headed by Nita Ambani, wife of billionaire and Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani, while Uday Shankar will be the vice chairperson. Shankar is a former top Disney executive and has a joint venture with James Murdoch, called Bodhi Tree.

The transaction had valued the joint venture at Rs 70,352 crore (USD 8.5 billion) on a post-money basis, excluding synergies.

The JV will be one of the leading TV and digital streaming platforms for entertainment and sports content in India, bringing together iconic media assets across entertainment (e.g. Colors, StarPlus, StarGOLD) and sports (e.g. Star Sports and Sports18) including access to highly anticipated events across television and digital platforms through JioCinema and Hotstar.

The JV will have over 750 million viewers across India and will also cater to the Indian diaspora across the world. It will also be granted exclusive rights to distribute Disney films and productions in India, with a licence to more than 30,000 Disney content assets, providing a full suite of entertainment options for the Indian consumer.

The Disney Reliance media merger deal was in contrast to the failed plans of rivals Sony and Zee last month. This merger which could have created a USD 10.5 billion entity, was called off by Sony Group and both sides are mired in litigations and arbitrations.


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