Technology

Top 3 MSOs need Rs 5.5 bn to fund first phase of digitisation

MUMBAI: The top three listed multi-system operators (MSOs) will require a funding of Rs 5.5 billion in the first phase of digitisation but expect their business models to strengthen due to a massive jump in subscription revenues.


Hinduja-controlled IndusInd Media & Communications Ltd (IMCL) is looking at investing Rs 2.5 billion while Den Networks will require Rs 2 billion. Hathway Cable & Datacom, which has already seeded two million set-top boxes (STBs), will need Rs 1 billion to digitise one million homes.


IMCL will borrow Rs 2 billion even as it plans to seed two million STBs in Delhi and Mumbai. "We have already seeded 0.5 million boxes. We have an investment plan of Rs 2.5 billion in the first phase of digitisation, out of which we will take Rs 2 billion as debt. We will need 1.3 million STBs in Mumbai and 700,000 in Delhi. We also plan to expand in Kolkata where we have a licence to operate but have no presence yet. We could look at making an acquisition in that market," said IMCL MD and CEO Ravi Mansukhani.
 
The Cabinet today cleared the proposal for an ordinance to commence work on digitisation of cable television to meet the 31 March 2012 deadline in the four metros.


Den Networks president, strategy and business development MG Azhar feels that execution rather than funding will be a challenge for the MSOs. "We are sitting on a cash of Rs 2 billion and have lined up debt of Rs 2 billion," he said.


Den has ordered for two million STBs, in addition to 500,000 that is already lying with it. "Our backend infrastructure is in place as we knew that the government is going to mandate digitisation. We will require to seed 1.5 million STBs in Delhi and 700,000 in Mumbai. We have recently acquired a small network in Kolkata and will need to service that market too," said Azhar.


Hathway will need one million STBs for the Mumbai and Delhi markets in the first phase. In Kolkata, it has a presence through its joint venture company, Gujarat Telelinks Pvt Ltd (GTPL), which acquired a 51 per cent stake in Kolkata Cable and Broadband Pariseva. 
 
Hathway expects its revenues to jump 2.5 times in the fully digitised markets. "Our subscription revenues would go up much higher but there would be a drop in carriage income. We feel the carriage revenue will shrink by 70 per cent in these markets. Along with a revenue share with the cable operators, our Ebitda should be at 20 per cent. Dovetailed with broadband Ebitda, we should have an Ebitda of 25 per cent in the first two years of digitisation," said Hathway Cable & Datacom managing director and CEO K Jayaraman.


Den expects its revenues to grow by four times. "We expect our subscription revenues to jump by 8-10 times after full digitisation. We do not expect any drastic fall in carriage revenue if we are able to hold our ground. Our Ebitda should be at around 35 per cent," said Azhar.


Mansukhani warns that cable TV companies could be at a disadvantage if certain issues are not addressed. "Digitisation can‘t work without the entire Trai recommendations, including fiscal incentives, being passed. Pricing of channels for digital cable and revenue share should be defined. Unlike DTH, the cable TV chain has intermediaries like distributors and the local cable operators," he said.

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