Television

Sahara in Rs 1.5 billion expansion plan; to bid for Abu Dhabi series

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MUMBAI: Sahara One Media and Entertainment Ltd is planning to raise Rs 1.5 billion to meet its expansion plans. The company is also likely to bid for the cricket telecast rights for the two-match India-Pakistan Friendship Series to be held in Abu Dhabi.

The board of directors will meet tomorrow (5 April) to decide on these issues. "Sahara One is looking at getting an enabling clause to raise Rs 1.5 billion. Among other things on the agenda is the approval to bid for the cricket rights," said a source close to the company.

Sahara's media and entertainment business has been valued by Ernst & Young at Rs 7 billion, sources said. The company had appointed the consulting firm to conduct the valuation exercise.

Sahara One Media and Entertainment is in talks to rope in investors. Recently, Bennett, Coleman & Company Ltd (publishers of Times of India and the Group is 74 per cent stakeholder in Times Now news channel) picked up six per cent stake for Rs 378 million in the company (Indiantelevision.com was the first to report that Bennett, Coleman would buy stake in Sahara One).

NRI businessman C Sivasankaran is in talks to put in around Rs 1.2 billion for a minority stake into Sahara One. "He is sitting on the fence," said the source. Having sold Aircel for $1.08 billion to Malaysia's Maxis Communications, he is flush with funds. His first media investment was in ETC Networks where he held 40 per cent stake. He went on diluting equity and exited from the company which was later acquired by Zee Telefilms.

Sahara is launching a music channel, adding up to a bouquet of general entertainment and movie channels. Sahara Group also owns a string of news channels.

Sahara has already experimented with cricket telecast of the India-England series on its Hindi general entertainment channel. Using the event, Sahara One has encrypted and expanded the reach of the channel.

For the Indo-Pak Friendship Series, the contract for ground rights has been bagged by PDM International, a Percept Holdings company, from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) with a bid of $ 3.61 million. Incidentally, Percept has a management contract to handle Sahara's entertainment business.

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