Kolkata: Kaustuv Ray, a Kolkata-based entrepreneur with interest in media, film and computer hardware, on Thursday announced plans for a 50:50 joint venture with London-based Delamore and Owl (D&O) group to launch technology and media ventures, but refused to comment on reports that he is looking to take over Sahara news network on management contract.
Ray and D&O chief executive officer Sanjeev Kumar told a press conference in Kolkata that they planned to launch a company named Delamore Ray Technology Ltd, registered in the UK. It will have interests in technology and media businesses in India through different subsidiaries, they said.
The D&O group claims to have investments in various fields in at least 30 countries.
Asked about his interest in Sahara news network, Ray refused to comment, saying that it was “not the right platform” to talk about it. Mint reported on Wednesday that Ray is close to striking a deal which will give him management control of Sahara’s seven television news channels for at least five years, and that the D&O group will financially back him in the transaction. The deal envisages Ray and D&O eventually taking equity interest in the channels.
A spokesperson for Sahara had denied plans to hand management control of the channels to Ray.
The D&O group is expected to infuse cash into the operations of Ray’s existing firms, which are estimated to owe banks at least Rs600 crore. Ray’s RP Infosystems Pvt. Ltd, which used to manufacture computers under the Chirag brand, is trying to settle its dues with lenders. Ray said the D&O group will provide the cash financial for a one-time settlement. But reaching a settlement with 17 lenders is not going to be easy, Ray said.
D&O’s Kumar said he was impressed with the Chirag brand, and leveraging its recall, the joint venture company will launch new lines of business such as an electronic wallet—ChiragPay. It will be focused initially on rural areas in the northern states.
Ray said Kolkata TV, a Bengali news channel controlled by him, will not be brought under the joint venture, adding that it will continue to be an independent entity. Kolkata TV has already started to share content with the Sahara network. Asked about the arrangement, a spokesperson for the Sahara group had said it is a “different story”.
Ray took control of Kolkata TV in September 2009 without buying a single share in it. If his deal with the Sahara group materialises, he will take over the news network with channels in almost all key Hindi-speaking states in a similar manner—without immediately buying into them. The Sahara group cannot immediately sell a stake in the news network because of restrictions imposed on it by the Supreme Court.
But the deal expects Ray to spend at least Rs30 crore to streamline the operations of the Sahara news channels. Shares may be allotted to him when the apex court removes its restrictions on share sale by the embattled Sahara group, Mint reported on Wednesday.
Sahara has filed a defamation case in a Patna court against Mint’s editor and some reporters over the newspaper’s coverage of the company’s dispute with the Securities and Exchange Board of India. Mint is contesting the case.