Television

Web 18 to acquire three internet companies

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MUMBAI: Television Eighteen India Ltd's internet arm, Web 18, will be acquiring three internet companies — Cricketnext.com, Compareindia.com and Urban Eye, a web design and technology firm. The acquisitions will help the group consolidate its focus on the internet business further.

"We are acquiring significant majority stakes in these three companies. With our financial portal Moneycontrol.com, we have built a global scale and size. We plan to soon replicate this with the new portals we have acquired," says TV18 Group CEO Haresh Chawla.

TV18, it is learnt, will allow the operations to be run by the old management. CricketNext.com co-founder and managing director Sanjay Jha agrees investments will be pumped in to scale up operations. "With our new partner, we will be able to considerably upscale our operations. We have parted with majority but will continue to run the operations," he says. Cricketnext.com was in talks with strategic investors including TV broadcasters to dilute its stake. "We have commenced negotiations with TV channels. "We are also in negotiations with horizontal portals and telecom operators. Our role as a content aggregator has strategic value for the other media companies and telcos," Jha had indiantelevision.com in May this year.

TV18 is also eyeing acquisition of a matrimonial site as it plans to create a bouquet of vertical portals, a source in the company says.

Cricketnext.com and Compareindia.com are in the retail consumer space. Cricketnext.com is a sports portal with a user base of over five million people whereas Compareindia is a product comparison site, with a user base of over two million people and offers a comprehensive product comparison engine with thousands of products over 50+ categories.

These two portals will be able to complement some of the key television and internet properties of the TV 18 Group. Cricketnext.com will complement the group’s online news portal, ibnlive.com, and also CNN IBN and IBN7 television channels. Compareindia.com will synergise with moneycontrol.com. It will also draw synergies with Awaaz, the TV 18's Hindi consumer-business offering on television.

Urban Eye is a web design and technology firm, with over 50 specialised internet technology professionals, which will help Web18 scale up its operations rapidly.

The companies are currently being restructured so as to align their operations to Web18. The two portals will be relaunched shortly.

This is the second round of acquisitions that Web18 has announced. The company acquired a significant stake in Yatra.com and Jobstreet.com India a few months ago.

The Indian Internet industry is on the verge of explosive growth. By 2008, the online user base is expected to grow to 100 million. TV 18 has been consistently growing its internet presence organically as well as through relevant acquisitions in the consumer internet space.

"These acquisitions are in line with our strategy to strengthen our position in the consumer internet space. Web 18’s vision is to be the leader in the consumer internet space. We expect consumer focused services like online recruitment, financial services, travel services, product comparisons and home shopping, sports etc to drive the growth of the internet in India. We expect significant synergies and competitive advantage to emerge from this move," adds Chawla.

BMR & Associates acted as transaction advisors for TV 18 on this deal.

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