Hyderabad: Associated Broadcasting Co. Pvt. Ltd (ABCL), which runs news channels in Telugu, Kannada and Gujarati under the TV9 brand, is in talks with the management of Bengali news channel Kolkata TV to acquire a sizeable equity stake, said top ABCL officials.
Kolkata TV is promoted by the Kolkata-based Xenitis Group, which is known for its “Amar” range of personal computers and low-cost, Chinese-made motorcycles.
ABCL is funded by Srini Raju, founder director of Satyam Computer Services Ltd, who now runs a venture capital firm called iLabs Capital Ltd with a fund size of more than $350 million (Rs1,386 crore). Some key portfolio companies of iLabs include Sify Ltd, DQ Entertainment Ltd, Cybernet Plc., Intelligroup Inc., Megasoft and IANS India Pvt. Ltd.
ABCL, which launched a Telugu spiritual channel Sanskruthi, has announced plans to expand into Maharashtra, West Bengal and New Delhi under the TV9 brand. It has also bought a Malayalam channel Indiavision for an undisclosed amount.
“We are currently in negotiations with Kolkata TV to pick up stake. It helps us to expand into the West Bengal market,” said Ravi Prakash, chief executive officer of ABCL.
Tathagata Dutta, Kolkata TV managing director, admitted that the Bengali channel was looking at raising funds to expand operations. “Ernst and Young is syndicating the private equity deal and we are in talks with ABCL, that owns TV9. The equity deal with ABCL will not only help us raise the funds required but also enable us to take leverage of TV9’s national presence,” he said.
Dutta refused to give details of the fund requirement and the equity stake Kolkata TV proposes to offer in favour of ABCL. “I can only say that it is not going to be a complete equity sale by us and that it is going to be a strategic equity alliance with ABCL,” he said.
“We are still in talks with Kolkata TV management and have not yet decided on equity acquisition, whether part stake, majority stake or complete stake,” said Prakash.
ABCL, which is set to launch its Hindi channel from Maharashtra before April-end, is actively looking at expanding into various regional markets either through partnerships or on its own, said ABCL director and vice-president M.K.V.N. Murthy. “Ernst and Young approached us with the Kolkata TV deal and we have not yet firmed up our plans on equity in the Bengali TV channel,” he said, adding that ABCL may also consider going on its own into the Bengali market.