Cable TV

Goldman Sachs to up stake in cable TV MSO DEN Networks; to invest Rs 142.43 crore

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MUMBAI: MSO DEN Networks has proved the naysayers - who have been carping that the Indian cable TV sector is as insipid as dry sawdust - wrong. The company’s 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 DEN 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 percent.

Board approval for this transaction came through yesterday and the company is seeking its shareholders’ nod through an extraordinary general meeting which is scheduled for 14 October 2016. DEN Networks informed the BSE about its intentions yesterday.

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 Goldman investment should come 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.

The company's CFO Manish Dawar told CNBC TV18 that the company will be utilising the funds to invest in the broadband business as well as to reduce its debt. Earlier, this month, it had got board approval to demerge its broadband/internet service provider (ISP) business undertaking into its wholly owned subsidiary Skynet Cable Network . The company's ISP business had a turnover of around Rs 40 crore in FY-2016.

Dawar told the business news channel that DEN's performance is on the upswing. "In Q1 we have already turned positive on EBITDA basis and if we were to look at I am talking about pre-activation which is what the investors wanted to kind of look at, so, therefore Q1 on cable business we are already EBITDA positive. Broadband is progressing very well, we have been able to reduce our losses tremendously over the last one year," he said. "TV-Shop we are very close to break even. So, if you were to look at on a consolidated basis also, in the current quarter and I am talking about on a like-to- like basis, last quarter we were at minus (–) Rs 5 crore and the current quarter is positive Rs 5 crore on consolidated basis."

Investors greeted the Goldman Sachs announcement with delight. DEN Networks shares hit a high of Rs 85 during day trading yesterday only to close at Rs 80.85 - a rise of 3.5 per cent. The company’s share had hit a 52 week high of Rs 133 (21 September 2015) and it had dropped to a low of Rs 60.50 on 15 February 2016.

The company also made an investor presentation yesterday in which it stated that its digital rollout is progressing well. Of the 13 million subscribers it has, almost 9.8 million of them have 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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