Zee scales down Agrani, broadband plans

The third quarter results of media baron Subhash Chandra's Zee Network are out and they were quite clear on one front. That it was time for Zee to take stock and do a rethink on a number of ambitious projects Chandra had lined up for the group. It appears to be a policy of scaling down and consolidation at the moment.

As part of this exercise comes the report in the Times of India on Monday that the ambitious Agrani Satellite project has been scaled down by Rs 25.5 billion.

The reduction comes soon after his rejection of the Industrial Financial Corporation of India's (IFCI) tough stand that he pledge his stake in Zee Telefilms and Essel Packaging for availing funds for the satellite project. In addition IFCI had also sought a personal guarantee from him.

The Agrani project as it stands now involves a proposed investment below RS 12 billion. This proposal has been submitted to the Industrial Development Bank (IDBI) for funding but it remains to be seen whether IDBI takes a softer stand on funding than IFCI.

In a related development, the Zee Network has also scaled down plans for its ambitious RS 37 billion broadband project by deciding to implement the project in three phases, the Financial Express reported. The company will now be investing only RS 3 billion in the first phase. The rest of the project will depend on Zee Network finding suitable strategic and financial partners.

Zee hopes to invest RS 23 billion in the second phase. Till such time as the company gets a financial partner in the project, the broadband rollout will be restricted to the laying of ducts in four cities within the financial resources available to Zee Telefilms' wholly-owned subsidiary, Siticable Network.

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