World cup rights turn out no sport for Zee; pull down Chandra's stake to 47.6%

MUMBAI: After its convergence adventure, Zee is cleaning up after its sports quest too. To pay off the dues of Zee and Essel Propack, Subhash Chandra and his family have offloaded around 3 per cent of their holdings in Zee Telefilms Ltd to a set of three Financial Institutional Investors (FIIs) for Rs 1550 million.

Chandra had raised the Rs 1550 million as a loan from Zee Telefilms through a platform he had floated for acquiring sports property rights for launching a sports channel.

Buddha Films, the platform company however lost out in its bidding for cricket world cup rights and lost around Rs 250 million on a Doordarshan marketing deal. Even the bank guarantee of Rs 675 million was encashed in December 2001. Although, these were business losses of Zee, the promoters have taken it on themselves. The sell off is to effect this dues settlement.

The 12,375,000 shares placed with the three FIIs are understood to have fetched a market rate plus price of around Rs 125 a share. Though Chandra has not named any FIIs, one of the three reported to have picked up a stake is the US based Putnam Investments.

With this sale, the personal holdings of Zee promoters have gone below 50 per cent for the first time. Their combined holdings after the sale are 47.6 per cent.

Incidentally, Zee is also writing off its holdings, to the tune of Rs 614.5 million, in its wholly owned subsidiaries Econnect India Ltd (EIL) and Zee Interactive Learning Systems Ltd. (ZILS). This move comes in the wake of a major capital reduction in EIL and ZILS both of which have incurred heavy losses and are admitting a sweeping erosion of their net worth.

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