Television

B4U not desperate to divest, says CEO Gupta

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B4U Network Television yesterday asserted that it was not on the lookout to divest stake while clarifying that cornered bull Ketan Parekh held only 5 per cent in the company.

"We are open to alliances which bring in fresh investments but no more than that," B4U Network Television CEO Ravi Gupta said while responding to queries about market rumours that the channel was facing financial difficulties and was under pressure to raise resources.

"Most alliances that we have been considering in recent times have been for joint venture operations and not for offloading stake," Gupta said, while adding that his company had not closed out the possibility of offloading stake. Gupta was, however, at pains to point out that in that case there would have to be some essential synergies involved which qualitatively added value to the organisation in terms of contacts and experience rather than being purely an infusion of funds.

On the status of the legal notice B4U had issued to Zee Telefilms on 11 April seeking an explanation from the Subhash Chandra promoted company regarding claims that it had acquired a 15 per cent stake in B4U, Gupta said Zee's response had been unsatisfactory.

Gupta said his legal department planned to seek further clarifications following the recent statements made Chandra that investment companies of the Essel Group (part of the Zee Group) had bought a stake in B4U for Rs 460 million through Parekh.

According to Zee, investment companies from the Essel Group had borrowed Rs 2,200 million from Zee Telefilms and placed it with Parekh who in turn used the money to buy stakes in various media firms, among them being B4U and AB Corp promoted by filmstar Amitabh Bachchan (28.5 per cent for Rs 750 million), as part of a long term strategic initiative.

Gupta said Parekh's holding in B4U had never crossed 5 per cent. The main shareholding remained with the promoters Kishore Lulla, Lakshmi Mittal and Gokul Bimani, Gupta said, but refused to disclose how much stake the three held.

Gupta said that B4U had reached strategic arrangements with a number of firms, including Sony in the United Kingdom and national broadcaster Doordarshan, which were beneficial to both sides to elucidate the kind of tie-ups that would interest him.

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