Zee TV calls for merchant banker proposals to help it forge a global strategic partnership

After failing with two alliances (Star TV and Asianet) and struggling to forge a third (for Siticable for the past year), Zee Telefilms chairman Subhash Chandra announced to a well-packed press conference in Mumbai that his company had decided to induct a strategic partner, preferably an international media major. Nothing more was revealed despite several attempts by the journos to put forth probing questions.

He said that the company had taken a decision to invite proposals from leading international investment/merchant bankers to secure this partnership.

"The need is driven by market trends - it's driven by the fact partnerships that provide access to capital and technology with access to the global market for programming and syndication can accelerate the process enhancing value creation by enlarging the scope of operating markets and consumers," said Chandra.

Zee Telefilms Corporate head and CEO R.K. Singh added that the company would be open to an alliance with even Sony and Star, if the offer was right. "There are no friends or foes in business. As long as we can enhance shareholder value, we would be open to the strategic partnership."

Chandra added that 60 per cent of ZTL's equity was with the promoters, 19 per cent with Indian financial institutions, 7 per cent with Indian financial institutions, 4 per cent with Star TV and the rest with individuals. "We would be looking for management skills in the partner," said Chandra.

Among the investment bankers who will be seeking to get the mandate include DSP Merrill Lynch whose managers were seen in Zee TV's offices earlier this week.

Chandra expects the partner to be brought in in the next three to four months.

The press conference was marked by skepticism from journos who have been stung in the past by the run of pie-in-the-sky announcements from the Zee Telefilms stable last year which helped take its share price to stratospheric heights. The ambitious announcements had to later be scaled down to more realistic levels later.

Will the markets react similarly? Or will they buy into Chandra's current announcement? Watch this space.

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