Zee Entertainment has five companies from Japan, Europe, US, and India vying for a stake: Subhash Chandra

  • Running against a deadline to repay a mammoth debt, Subhash Chandra has put Zee Entertainment Enterprise on the block.
  • The cash-strapped group is in conversation with five companies from Japan, US, Europe, and India, Chandra told the Economic Times.
  • Suitors are interested in buying a controlling stake in Zee, one of the largest media houses in the country.
This may be music to the ears of the Essel Group's lenders. Chairman Subhash Chandra has revealed that five companies ranging from the west coast of the US to Europe, India, and as far east as Japan are in talks to pick up a stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprises.

The Chairman of Essel Group told the Economic Times that non-binding term sheets will be ready latest by first week of May. "You might get surprised with the names," he added.

Subhash Chandra, with a net worth of $2.5 billion as of March 2019 according to Forbes, was one of the country's leading industrialists before the sky came crashing down. Some wrong bets, which he was not willing to let go in good time, led to significant pile up in group debt. Now, he has time till September 30 to repay its dues.


The market was abuzz with rumours that one of the suitors was Sony before it pulled out. Chandra did not confirm or deny the specualtion, and instead said, "I would maintain the same stance. One really can’t say anything at this stage."

Zee Entertainment, run by Chandra's sons Punit and Amit, has 76 channels reaching 1.3 billion viewers in 173 countries. Is Chandra willing to give up control of Zee, or will he sell a smaller stake? "It all depends on the respective business preferences of the shortlisted players. It is (more) complicated than it seems and we will collectively arrive at a decision which is best suited for the company and for its stakeholders," Chandra said.

NOT JUST ZEE

The Essel Group has interests in amusement parks, packaging, infrastructure, a cruise business under the brand Jalesh and lotteries. Stakes in almost all these businesses are on the block.

"If you look at the sale of assets of our infra business, I believe it will be completed between July and September. With that ₹15o-160-billion debt of operating companies and ₹3,000 crore of corporate debt will get cleared off. So overall about Rs 200 crore of debt will easily get wiped off. Rest will be taken care of by the stake sale in Zee," Chandra said.

SEE ALSO:
Zee group buys time to sell assets

India's 'Lehman moment' seems closer than ever as top mutual funds defer dues to investors

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