Potential suitors Comcast and James Murdoch were left at the altar as Subhash Chandra’s Essel Group decided instead to sell an 11% share stake in his Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., India’s largest private broadcaster, to U.S. investment group Invesco’s Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund. Invesco has funds under management reaching $1.2 trillion.
Zee operates 66 linear television channels across 171 countries and is expanding the reach of its streaming platform, Zee5, around the world. The company, which last reported profits of $228 million, also has interests in Indian and international film production.
A consortium led by U.S. cable giant Comcast, alongside Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and investment firms Atairos and the Blackstone group, had made an offer Monday to pick up a controlling 51% stake in Zee. Chandra, who controls both Essel and Zee, instead chose to sell a much smaller stake, allowing him to retain control while improving Essel’s liquidity.
The Essel Group, which owns a 42% stake in Zee, is in debt to the tune of $2.4 billion and has a market value of $2.7 billion. The sale of Zee shares to Invesco brings in $635 million on a valuation of Zee of $5.77 billion. (The Comcast-Murdoch bid reportedly valued Zee at $5.43 billion.)
Essel had appointed Goldman Sachs last November to conduct a strategic review and potentially sell half of its Zee stake to a global entertainment leader. Other Zee suitors mentioned in the past include Sony, Amazon, Tencent and Alibaba.
“It gives me immense pleasure to note [Invesco Oppenheimer Fund’s] strong belief and trust in the intrinsic value of our precious asset,” said Punit Goenka, Zee’s CEO and managing director.
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