Business Standard's foreign investment proposal cleared by I&B ministry

NEW DELHI: India's Information and Broadcasting ministry has cleared a proposal of Business Standard Ltd. that had sought government permission to get injected with foreign investment amounting to Rs 141 million from the London-based Financial Times, published by the diversified media company, Pearson.

After the ministry's go-ahead, the road has been smoothened for the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) to give the final green signal to the proposal.

According to government officials, the relevant files were signed by the I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad earlier this week.But, interestingly, a debate is going on within the I&B ministry whether the present policy guidelines allow printing and publication of Indian editions of foreign newspapers and magazines from India and the opinion is said to be divided on the matter.

This debate was kickstarted after Bennett Coleman and Co. - publishers of The Times of India (TOI) and The Economic Times, announced that a memorandum of understanding had been signed with the publishers of The Asian Wall Street Journal for printing an Indian edition of the business newspaper with an Indian acting as editor.

The MoU, it had been stated, would be within the specified guidelines where up to 26 per cent foreign investment is permitted in the news category of the print medium, though the government has not yet been approached formally by the TOI group for clearances.

In Business Standard's (BS) case, printing and/or publication of The Financial Times (FT) has not been dwelt on in the application.

Government officials also said today that the total foreign investment in BSL would amount to slightly over 15 per cent, though originally FT was slated to pick up 13.85 per cent equity stake.

The BS-FT tie-up was the first major foreign investment in an Indian newspaper by a strategic investor.

The Business Standard and The Financial Times had begun to cooperate a decade ago, through editorial syndication of reports from FT's 300 correspondents worldwide. This relationship has expanded over the years.

When finally cleared by the FIPB, Financial Times will join the Kotak Mahindra group and Great Eastern Shipping as the leading investors in Business Standard Ltd., which will continue to operate as an independent entity, with its management reporting to the Board, on which The Financial Times will have appropriate representation.

Business Standard is published from seven centres in India, and as India's second largest financial newspaper, reaches copies to readers in over 500 towns and cities every day. The Financial Times is one of the world's leading business newspapers, recognised internationally for its authority, integrity and accuracy. Providing extensive news, comment and analysis, the newspaper is printed in 21 cities across the globe, has a daily circulation of over 460,000 and a readership of more than 1.6 million people worldwide.

Other global print medium players who have evinced interest in either setting up shop in India or tying up with an India media company, include US business magazine BusinessWeek, Par Golf from Exposure Media and Intelligent Computing Chip from TBW Publishing.

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