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Sun TV eyeing TV9 channels in Rs 150-cr buy

R. Ravikumar
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The Kalanithi Maran-controlled Sun TV Network Ltd is close to acquiring Hyderabad-based Associated Broadcasting Company Pvt Ltd (ABCL), which manages a chain of regional news channels under the brand TV9.

ABCL has six news channels — one in Telugu, two in Kannada, and one each in Gujarati, Marathi and English. According to sources, the Mauritius-based private equity firm Saif Partners has substantial stake in the company, and is looking to exit.

“The deal may be struck for approximately Rs 150 crore,” a person close to the development told Business Line.

TV9 is the market leader in the news genre in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, with a considerable lead over other news channels.

To Sun’s advantage

Sun Network, with a Rs 16,000-crore market capitalisation, has a strong presence in the South with 32 channels across all genres in the four regional languages. While its Tamil bouquet is the market leader by a wide margin, its lead in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka is more modest. In Kerala, it trails Asianet.

According to an industry analyst, if the TV9 deal goes through, Sun TV’s market share in the news genre will get an immediate boost. It could also lead to a consolidationin the South as smaller players with low TRP shares are in danger of losing out when the TRAI-mandated cap on advertising comes into effect, in October.

Advertising cap

Post the October cut-off date, no broadcaster can air commercials in excess of 12 minutes in an hour. Analysts believe that stronger players such as Zee and Sun will be able to transition to the new dispensation with little disruption by raising rates to compensate for the volume lost whereas smaller channels may take a hit as their ability to raise prices may be limited.

On an earlier occasion, the Sun Group CFO, SL. Narayanan, had said in an interview to Business Line that the Sun group “was not averse to an M&A-led growth strategy, if the numbers make sense.” However, when contacted, he declined to comment on a possible deal with TV9. In an emailed response, he said: “It is pure speculation at this time.”

Sun TV Network Ltd is a debt-free company and has Rs 416 crore in cash and cash equivalent as of March 31, 2013.

ravikumar.r@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 15, 2013)
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