New Delhi: Nearly six years after its search listings and deals portal went live, AskMe.com suspended operations last week, citing lack of funds and leaving around 4,000 people jobless.

AskMe Group, which also runs e-commerce site AskMeBazaar, grocery marketplace AskMeGrocery, furniture and home décor portal Mebelkart has accused its investor, Astro Entertainment Networks Ltd which owns 99% stake in the group, of not making payments.

Astro, on the other hand, says it has invested $300 million in Getit Infoservices Pvt. Ltd, which runs AskMe, since 2010, and has criticised AskMe for its inability to make its business profitable despite this investment.

While a reconciliation between the investor and the AskMe Group is not in sight, the Malaysia-based venture intends to appoint a forensic auditor to review Getit Infoservices’ books.

Astro Entertainment Networks Ltd (AENL) is the investment vehicle of Astro Overseas Ltd. Astro Overseas has assets under management of over $1 billion.

Astro Overseas focuses on investment in media and entertainment space across five categories—platform and distribution, content, IP and production, e-commerce and digital media. Besides India, it has investments in other Asian countries apart from the Middle East, the UK and the US, as per its Linkedin profile.

Astro Overseas is wholly-owned by Astro Holdings Sdn Bhd, a company jointly controlled by Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd (a Malaysian investment holding company led by billionaire Ananda Krishnan) and Khazanah Nasional Berhad (the strategic investment fund of the Malaysian government).

There isn’t much clarity on when Astro Overseas or even Astro Entertainment Network was formed.

However, their parent firm, the media and entertainment company Astro Malaysia Holdings was founded in 1996. It is an investment holding company. It began by providing digital satellite television and radio services, and grew to become a conglomerate involved in magazine publishing, film production, television content distribution, among others.

Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd’s reported a 47% net profit for its fourth quarter ended 31 January 2016 RM 203.77 million ( 3,400.95 million), as per a March report in Thestar.com.

According to other media reports, Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd has over 69% market share of the country’s total households as a pay TV provider.

As per information dated August 22 with The Wall Street Journal, top mutual funds that own stake in Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd are T. Rowe Price International Stock Fund, T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Stock Fund and Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund.

In India, besides AskMe, Astro through its different units entered into sectors such as broadcasting and telecom in its early days.

In 2004, Astro All Asia Networks Plc, unit of Astro Holdings entered into an agreement with Sun TV for setting up a joint venture to originate, aggregate and distribute television programming and channels for the global audience.

The deal did not have a happy ending though. Astro got embroiled in a controversy after C.Sivasankaran, owner of telecom operator Aircel chief complained to the Central Bureau of Investigation about not receiving a telecom licence and being forced by then telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran to transfer his ownership to Maxis Communications Bhd in 2006. He also alleged that Maran received kickbacks in the form of investments by the Maxis Group through the Astro Network in Sun TV Network, owned by the Maran family.

The case is under litigation. Earlier this month, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) moved an application in a special CBI court, seeking arrest warrants against Maxis Communication Berhad and Astro All Asia Network Plc, besides Krishnan and Malaysian national Augustus Ralph Marshall among others.

Besides these, Astro has also invested in companies such as digital media firm To The New Ventures among others.

However, troubled by political and legal issues, the Malaysian Group is already looking for a strategic exit from the Indian market by pulling out all its investments, depicting its lack of appetite for the Indian market, according to a VCCircle report in June.

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