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Competition regulator okays Goldman Sachs stake purchase in Den Networks

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MUMBAI: Investment banking major Goldman Sachs has received the Competition Commission's approval to increase its stake in Den Networks to over 24 per cent by acquiring additional shares through preferential allotment route.

indiantelevision had reported that MSO Den Networks existing shareholder Goldman Sachs is picking up 1.58 crore equity shares at a price of Rs 90 per share via a preferential allotment. This will take Goldman Sachs’ equity stake in the cable TV service provider up from 17.79 per cent to 24.49 per cent and involve an injection of much needed capital to the tune of Rs 142.43 crore. The divestment is expected to trim promoter stake in the company to 37 per cent.

Media observers say that the Indian cable TV ecosystem – including the government, the regulator TRAI, broadcasters, MSOs and cable TV operators - has stumbled in the digitization process which was mandated by the ministry of information and broadcasting four years back. They have also been saying that investor sentiment towards the sector is pretty weak. Shares of most leading Indian cable TV companies have been depressed, and have been parked at lows. However, DEN Networks has been taking steps to correct the perception. It has brought back its CEO SN Sharma who has since been working on raising revenues and profitability.

The transaction has now been cleared by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), as per the regulator's website.

The additional acquisition would be done by the holding companies of Goldman Sachs -- Broad Street Investments (Singapore) Pte (BSIPL) and MBD Bridge Street 2016 Investments (Singapore) Pte (MBD), according to filing submitted to CCI. BSIPL and MBD are investment holding companies and are not engaged in business of manufacturing of products or the provision of service, PTI reported. Den Networks is into distribution of television channels through analog as well as digital modes.

The Goldman investment came as a shot in the arm for Den Networks as well as the Indian cable TV sector which is grappling with reinventing its business model.

Investors had greeted the Goldman Sachs announcement with delight. Den Networks had made an investor presentation in which it stated that its digital rollout is progressing well. Of the 13 million subscribers it has had, almost 9.8 million of them upgraded to digital in Q1 2017. Five million of these are in DAS Phase I & II areas with the remainder being in Phase III and phase IV.

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