UK's 3i eyes more acquisitions in India

MUMBAI: UK-based 3i is betting big on India. After investing $45.50 million for a 33 per cent stake in Mumbai-based Nimbus Communications, the private equity and venture fund is eyeing further acquisitions in a wide range of sectors including media.

"If we manage even two-three deals in India, we will have pumped in major investments over the next five years. The range of the deals will be between $20-100 million for minority positions," says 3i managing director and co-head Asia Anil Ahuja.

For buyouts, the investments could be more. So is 3i looking at a buyout in the media sector? "We are on the hunt," says Ahuja.

Media is a big area for 3i, having made over 100 investments across the world. "There are multiple Indian media companies in the market even in the publishing business," says Ahuja.

What made 3i decide on Nimbus? "The company has more than an Indian footprint. We with our experience and depth can work closely to put things together," says Ahuja.

A large chunk of the money will be put into sports rights acquisitions and working capital. Television production and motion pictures will also attract finance. A sizeable amount will be set aside for digital media conversion, adds Ahuja.

Will 3i wait long for Nimbus to go for an initial public offering (IPO)? "Even now the company has the strength to go for an IPO. It has earned a net profit of Rs 150 million for 2004-05. But the important thing is to grow the value of the company in the next few years," says Ahuja.

Nimbus will explore investments in sports and lifestyle broadcasting. "The company is positively inclined twoards sports broadcasting. We could either launch or acquire an existing channel or even get into a joint venture. We expect to take a decision within the next 12 weeks," says Nimbus Communications executive chairman Harish Thawani.

Nimbus is in the process of completing a deal to take over a leading film distribution company. "We are well funded for our expansion plans. We have strong internal accruals and the sales procured by the company stood at Rs 2.13 billion for 2004-05. We have access to international markets. We have the ability to bring in a debt component," says Thawani.


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