The speculation has been rife for quite sometime now. Vijayanand Printers Limited (VPL), from the promoters of Vijayanand Roadways Limited (VRL), is in talks with potential investors. The company, according to reliable sources, is open to selling out or offloading a portion of the stake. Among the three bidders in the fray is Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd (BCCL), owners of The Times of India Group, and the deal is likely to come through in the next week or two.
VPL publishes the leading Kannada daily ‘Vijaya Karnataka’, English daily ‘Vijay Times’, and a second Kannada daily ‘Usha Kirana’. BCCL does not have a presence in the Kannada media, and would make its foray if and when an investment in VPL is made.
Going by sources close to the development, a South African media company is among the other two interested parties. The third suitor is learnt to be an Indian investor who currently does not have a presence in the media space.
It is interesting to note that New Delhi-based HT Media Limited is also reported to have been in the race till sometime ago for buying out VPL, as that would have given Hindustan Times a smooth entry into the Southern market.
When contacted, Vijay Sankeshwar, Chairman of VRL and VPL, refused to comment. The management at VRL had announced earlier that it planned to make a foray into the airline business.
However, sources in VPL, on condition of anonymity, did confirm that negotiations were on but an agreement on the deal is yet to be signed.
A top-level source in BCCL, when contacted about the VPL deal, said on condition of anonymity, “Yes, we are in negotiations but no agreement has been signed yet.”
When asked why BCCL is interested in buying out a newspaper like Vijay Times considering that The Times of India is the No. 1 English daily in the Bangalore market, he said, “It fits in with our broad strategy. Like in Mumbai, where the TOI still reigns supreme, our second product, Mumbai Mirror, is already the No. 2 paper in that city in terms of readership. It makes sense for us to own the No. 1 and No. 2 product in a market as we can provide better value to our advertisers.”
Significantly, while TOI is No.1 in Bangalore city, Vijay Times is a clear leader outside the state capital in the various districts of Karnataka.
A decision on the deal is expected in the next week or two.