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Airtel, Jio To Fight For Zee Entertainment Stake

Telecom majors Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio are set for another face-off, this time in the entertainment segment as both the companies plan to offer bids for stake in the Zee Entertainment Enterprises, sources privy to the development said.

Bharti Airtel has already initiated the efforts and is likely to make a formal proposal soon, sources said while Reliance Jio Infocomm is also considering a bid.

This comes amid reports that the Japanese media major Sony Corporation’s bid to acquire Zee Entertainment Enterprises has been put off due to differences of valuation. This has helped US cable company Comcast-Atairos become the frontrunner in the acquisition talks.

Zee Entertainment and Airtel could not be reached for comment while call to a spokesperson in Reliance Industries remained unanswered.

Zee Entertainment is also said to be considering getting in private equity (PE) investors as part of their stake sale process. Apple is the other contender in the acquisition race after Comcast-Atairos, sources said.

Sony had initially proposed a merger of its existing operations with Zee Entertainment and was also open to a cash buyout.

This comes as a major blow to the Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group which is looking to sell its its stake in Zee Entertainment due to its financial stress. Essel Group’s promoters have been selling shares of its group companies since its crises started earlier this year.

Zee is also present in the over-the-top video content space with Zee5, while Sony runs the SonyLiv OTT platform and both these platforms compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Zee Entertainment’s promoters has been in talks with multiple investors to sell around 25 percent stake from their shareholding of around 40 percent, in order to pay off loans taken against their shares. As or December 2018, around 59 percent of the promoters’ stake in Zee Entertainment was pledged to lenders.―The Quint

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