Television

UTV IPO post-September; 12 m. shares at Rs 5 on offer

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MUMBAI: 2004 looks to be turning into the year for media public offerings. After Aaj Tak and NDTV, it is the turn of UTV promoter Ronnie Screwvala, who has finally fixed the time-line for his much delayed public issue.

UTV's IPO is expected to happen anytime between September and November, according to a company statement issued a short while ago. 12 million shares of Rs 5 par value is what will be on offer in the issue, the prospectus for which will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Bureau of India (Sebi) within the next three weeks. Of this 12 million, 6 Million will be fresh offer.

When asked how much he expected to raise from the public issue, Screwvala said it would depend on the market response. He however, added that the IPO would at the very least mop up Rs 1 billion.

Paving the way for the public issue as it were, Screwvala today announced that he has concluded the buy back of shares from News Corp (Star) as well as partly from leading Canadian investment fund manager CDPQ. The buyback will consolidate Screwvala's shareholding, pre-IPO, to 54 per cent in holding company UTV Software Communications Limited.

CDPQ, which invested fresh equity of 9.6 million shares in UTV over two-and-a-half years ago, had initiated a scaling down of all its investments in Asia last year, according to the statement issued by UTV. Screwvala has therefore signed an agreement with CDPQ to buy back 3.6 million shares. The remaining 6 million CDPQ shares will be offered for sale in the forthcoming IPO.

CDPQ currently holds a 31 per cent stake in UTV, which will go down to 21 per cent following the buyback and further down to zero on completion of the public issue process, Screwvala said.

As for Star, Screwvala will be buying back 4.54 million shares, which represents a 15 per cent stake in UTV.

On the completion of these two transactions, Screwvala's consolidated holding in UTV will move up to 54 per cent, pre-IPO. When queried as to what the buybacks represented in cash outflow terms, he declined to offer any numbers.

Commenting on the deal, he says, "In my original shareholder's agreement with News Corp, I had an option to buy back shares pre-IPO and I have exercised that option to increase and consolidate my shareholding." He adds, "UTV and Star share a multiple strategic relationship in television content, in movie co-productions, in Vijay TV and more recently in the distribution alliance for our kids channel Hungama TV, and we will continue to build on these strategic relationships."

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