Sun TV in for a consortium with Red FM

MUMBAI: Kalanithi Maran's Sun TV Ltd. is expected to enter into a consortium with Red FM, the operators in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, for its radio business.

The alliance will offer a joint platform to advertisers, making it a formidable bouquet against the biggies like Radio Mirchi and Radio City. Brand promotions will also be a part of this exercise, market sources say. Both Red FM and Sun TV Ltd were not available for comment till the time of filing this report.

Malaysia's Astro All Asia Networks plc, which is one of the three stakeholders in Red FM, recently said that it was in advanced discussions with strategic partners on various initiatives in India, including participation in a nationwide consortium of FM radio networks. "We expect to finalise partnership arrangements in the coming months. Appropriate announcements will be made in due course," Astro Group CEO Ralph Marshall told reporters after the company's AGM in Kuala Lumpur.

Maran, who made an aggressive nationwide bid in the second phase of FM radio expansion, had excluded Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the cities where Red FM operates. While Kal Radio (where Sun TV owns 89 per cent) would confine its operations to the southern language states, South Asia FM (Sun has 94.91 per cent equity) would carve out stations in the other regions.

Joining hands with NDTV and Hyderabad-based Value Labs to acquire Red FM from Radio Today for around Rs 1.3 billion, Astro is eyeing a major presence in the FM sector in India. ?We expect that we would have a 20 per cent interest in a nationwide radio licence as soon as we receive the approvals,? Marshall had told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Apart from Red FM, Astro is already managing two FM radio stations in Kolkata through AMSI (Airtime Marketing & Sales India). The company, working with its local Indian partners Power107.8 FM and Aamar 106.2 FM, provides studio facilities and airtime sales and marketing services to the two FM radio stations in Kolkata.

Sun TV Ltd, which raised Rs 6.03 billion through an initial public offering (IPO), has bet big on radio to scale up revenues. A consortium with Red FM would particularly help Sun in the newer markets, analysts say. In the southern language markets, Sun has the advantage of dominating ownership of movie rights which it can leverage for its radio business.

Before the IPO, Sun had taken clearance from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) for issuing equity shares to foreign investors. The company, in its application, had said that it was intending to issue this either by "way of a preferential allotment prior to the IPO" and/or by "way of an initial public offering of its equity shares of the face value of Rs 10 each of 10 per cent of its post IPO paid up equity capital, subject to the maximum foreign investment limit as prescribed."

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