Speculations over Mukesh Ambani’s interest to enter the Indian media business have been rife for some time now. The most recent development on the subject is in context to Ambani’s conversations with Raghav Bahl-owned Network18 Group.
It is understood that Network18 has been in conversations with the ETV Group for an alliance, which would then form a base for Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries Ltd, to take a stake in the company.
Wall Street Journal reported on the speculation on December 19, 2011 and has quoted: “One person familiar with the situation said an option being explored is for Ambani to take a minority stake in Network18 and then eventually combine Network18 with Eenadu TV, a regional TV broadcaster in which he already has a large investment.”
Sections of media in India also reported on similar lines last week.
A confirmation of any kind on the development, however, has not been obtained. In an internal meeting last month, Network18 officials had even denied the speculation to the company’s staff in Mumbai.
The reports, however, point out that if Network18 does forge an alliance with ETV, which is a south India based regional broadcaster, the move would make the company as widespread in its national footprint as STAR India and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. For Mukesh Ambani, this would be a strong media venture to be a part of.
The WSJ report also stated: “For Network18, a cash injection by Ambani would be a major financial boost at a time when the conglomerate is trying to reduce a heavy debt load. The company borrowed to fund its aggressive expansion in the past several years – including the launch of a 50-50 joint venture with Viacom and its initial investments in new media such as the Web portal In.com. In addition to the talks with Ambani, Network18 has been exploring ways to sell off non-core assets to raise cash such as its stake in travel Web site Yatra.com, people familiar with the matter said.”