Media shares melt down; Zee Telefilms scrip hits the bottom

MUMBAI: The fizz has consistently being going out of Indian media shares on the stock exchanges. And today saw them hitting the depths. Zee Telefilms touched its 19 month low when it crashed 13 per cent to Rs 162.50 but it recovered to close at Rs 165.65. Other media counters like Jain Studios (down 15.27 per cent to Rs 71), Pentamedia Graphics (down 12.64 per cent to Rs 163.50) and Crest Communications (down 11.71 per cent to Rs 90.50) exceeded the eight per cent lower limit of the circuit breaker. Tips Industries (Rs 150.80), Padmalaya Telefilms (Rs 71.05), Cinevista Communications (Rs 73), Balaji Telefilms (RS 210.10), Vision Techno (Rs 30.40) and Pritish Nandy Communications (Rs 36.85) also lost substantial ground. Others such as G V Films, Creative Eye, Sri Adhikari Brothers, TV 18 and Saregama India were subdued.

But the most worrisome of the losers is the once numero uno television broadcaster Zee Telefilms which reported high trading volumes of 15.10 million on the Bombay stock exchange (BSE) and hit its lowest for a long time. Zee's share price has been going down consistently for the past year. After a 1:10 split, the share peaked at Rs 1,610 in March 2000 during the market frenzy - an outstanding climb. The price has since been moving southwards.

The heavy erosion has been attributed to many factors right from the market perception of media stocks, to the rise of Star as a strong competitor which chewed away Zee's advertising revenues, along with other rivals such as Sony, DD, Sahara, Sab TV and other regional language channels. Adding to the negative outlook was the sheer bungling of its high profile riposte to Star TV's Kaun Banega Crorepati - Sawal Das Crore Ka.

The company hared into several directions announcing a spate of diversification and did not follow up on them. Finally, its third quarter results were much below expectations and the fourth quarter is showing little signs of brightening up.

The company is trying hard to get over the whirlpool current it has got caught in. It is implementing the restructuring recommendations made by consultant AT Kearney. But the results are not showing up on the bottomline as yet and are still some time away.

Punters are expecting a slight rise in its price in the short term but the prognosis is that it is going to sink further and stay there for quite a while. Looks like there is little succor for investors in Zee Telefilms who may end up losing their shirts in its downfall.

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