The buzz that New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) promoters have pledged 26% stake with Religare and are likely to lose control is getting louder.
According to sources, the promoters had pledged a substantial part of their stake. With the NDTV share price remaining weak, Religare is calling back the loan. If NDTV promoters are unable to repay, Malvinder Singh, group chairman, Fortis Healthcare & Religare will be the new owner of the NDTV group, in which, NBC Universal of the US has a large investment.
According to an insider, top officials of both the groups (NDTV and Religare) had a close-door meeting a fortnight ago to thrash out a deal.
Speaking to this reporter, Varun Soni, senior vice president (Corporate Communications) of Religare said, “Yes there is a buzz in the media that Religare is in talks to buy substantial stake in NDTV, but I have nothing to say on this. It will be improper to comment anything about it at this stage.”
The news of Religare’s talks to purchase 26% stake in NDTV have been doing rounds in the market since last couple of weeks, with both the entities refusing to speak out on the subject nor deny. When contacted, Rajiv Mathur, company secretary of NDVT refused to comment under the pretext of his busy schedule.
NDTV has been maintaining its losses for the last three quarters and the situation is going from bad to worse. In the September 2008 and December 2008 quarters, NDTV posted an operating loss of Rs10.23 crore and Rs6.7 crore, respectively. However, in March 2009 quarter, the media company posted an operating loss of Rs36.13 crore. In the June 2009 quarter, the company posted an operating profit of Rs8.05 crore.
A big blow has been the launch of ET Now which has pushed NDTV profit to third rank in the television news segment. NDTV’s English business news channel, NDTV Profit has suffered for over a year on the back of the capital market turmoil.
The flagship channel NDTV24x7 to is lagging in the third position after Times Now and CNN-IBN. NDTV Imagine scored a big hit with Rakhi Sawant’s Swayamvar, but the revenues from this pales in comparison to group-wise losses. Prannoy Roy has managed to survive previous setbacks by getting a new set of investors each time.
Will Malvinder Singh be the new saviour of NDTV this time or is the end news? — By Vidyut Kumar Ta