Television

The Packer Package

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Channel Nine chief Kerry Packer had a very busy India visit last week. He announced that he was very firm on making India his numero uno investment place following Australia. India has more advantage than his motherland due to the population which stands at almost a billion as compared to Australia's 20 million, he pointed out. India is also known for "brains" and is an emerging superpower in IT, telecom and media sectors.

Being kicked by the convergence wave, Packer has lined up interesting investments in India. He has picked up a stake in telecom company Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited (HFCL) at a cost of Rs 11,000 million. On 27 March 2000, he joined hands with the blazing broker Ketan Parekh and HFCL chief Vinay Maloo to set up a Rs 11 billion venture capital fund - KVP Ventures. He has already invested close to Rs 700 million in four Indian software and dotcoms ventures. These include the cricket portal cricketnext.com, Omega Portals Ltd's children portal mykindasite.com, Hexaware Technologies and Chennai based Radiant Software.

Packer is closely observing the Broadcasting regulations which do not allow majority stake of foreign players in Indian media companies. He is likely to pick up small stakes in media and entertainment companies thus staying in tune with the government policies. Talks were already on to introduce a sports channel in India and the Aussie tycoon met up with the Sahara Group boss Subroto Roy. The group recently launched a general entertainment channel in India. The sports channel will be directly pitched against ESPN and Star Sports.

What is to be seen is whether Packer succeeds in India which has a presence of giants like Subhash Chandra and his arch rival Murdoch who's recent India visit unleashed his new ambitions for this region. It will be a wait and watch scenario in which the general consumer will more or less benefit.

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