Sahara appoints Ernst & Young to value entertainment business

MUMBAI: Sahara Group has mandated consulting firm Ernst & Young to conduct a valuation of its entertainment and movie businesses, sources close to the company said.

Under the ambit will be Sahara's Hindi general entertainment channel and the movie library it owns. Sahara has produced several recent hits like Page 3, Sarkar, No Entry and Hanuman.

News channels, however, are kept out of Ernst & Young's valuation exercise, the source said. Sahara runs a bouquet of news channels under the Sahara Samay brand. This includes a national and several regional-centric channels.

Ernst & Young is expected to submit the valuation report within a month. Sahara officials were not willing to speak on the issue. Sahara India Mass Communication Ltd CEO Shantonu Aditya was not available for comment.

Sahara's entertainment business is being handled by a management joint venture with Percept's Shailendra Singh at the helm. This includes SaharaOne TV, the Hindi general entertainment channel, and motion pictures business. Sahara also plans to launch Filmy, a movie channel.

Sahara Samay is handled by a different team. "It has a separate structure including a different ad sales head," the source said.

A change in name of the listed company is on the agenda to reflect the SaharaOne brand so that it brings in the identity of Sahara's entertainment business. SaharaOne Media and Entertainment Ltd will be the new name of Sahara India Mass Communication, following the shareholders' approval which is likely to be sought in December.

Sahara India Mass Communication is a profitable company, having earned a net profit of Rs 65 million on a total income of Rs 1.68 billion in 2004-05. It has a healthy business model involving production of software and licensing it to the Hindi-language general entertainment channel SaharaOne TV. The earnings from the movie business also get reflected in the company's revenues.

However, Sahara India TV Networks, the privately held company that is the broadcasting arm for the group's entertainment and news channel operations, is loss-making. The advertising revenues of SaharaOne TV and the news channels of Sahara Samay get reflected in this company. Though SaharaOne TV's ratings are slowly inching up and the channel has managed to hike effective ad rates, it still has some way to go to be profitable. Movies, however, have turned out to be profitable for Sahara this year.

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