Television

TV9 plans to invest Rs 1.2 billion in regional news channels, Africa operations

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MUMBAI: Hyderabad-based Associated Broadcasting Company PVT Ltd. (ABCL) promoters are planning to invest Rs 1.2 billion in regional news channels and starting African operations.

ABCL will be pumping in Rs 200 million for TV9 Kannada, the recently launched news channel. The company is also considering launching news channels in Marathi and Gujarati languages which would consume an additional Rs 400 million. "We will take a final call on this in 4-6 months. We hope our Kannada channel, which we launched on 7 December, would have stabilised by then," says ABCL vice president operations KVN Murthy.

The promoters plan to expand to Africa through a separate company and initially pump in Rs 600 million for the venture. "We see opportunities there, particularly in cable operations. We are also looking at local language content which would be a mixture of entertainment and news. We plan to initially invest Rs 600 million and are exploring options of going through the joint venture route with a local partner," says Murth

ABCL has already invested close to Rs 200 million in TV9 Telugu. The company is 80 per cent owned by iLabs, a venture fund, and Unified Group. The balance 20 per cent is held by Ravi prakash and five other professionals.

Expansion into other language channels is also on the radar. "We may step into new geographies and are looking at the other regional markets except Tamil and Malayalam where there are entrenched players," says Murthy.

The company may raise capital through private placement or dilution to strategic investors if it decides to go ahead with the expansion plans. "We want to first have a strong presence in the two regional markets before we decide to take a look at various valuation opportunities including tapping strategic investors. Our Telugu channel is doing well. We hope TV9 Kannada would break even in 18-20 months," says Murthy.

ABCL clocked a revenue of Rs 106 million in FY06. "we expect our revenues to double this fiscal and we should touch Rs 340 million in FY08 through our existing operations alone. We are EBITDA positive since this April," says Murthy.

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