Television

UTV scrip up on Disney deal buzz

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MUMBAI: UTV Software Communications' share price has gone up by 18 per cent in the last three trading days on the talk that the Walt Disney Company is buying into Hungama TV. The market is also abuzz with rumours that Disney is picking up a small stake in UTV.

The scrip opened today at Rs 162, touched a high of Rs 182, and closed at Rs 175. On Thursday, it had gained Rs 14.50 to end at Rs 165.65.

UTV is making a preferential allotment to Disney, a dealer in a broking firm said. The integrated media company holds 49 per cent in United Home Entertainment (UHE) which runs Hindi kids channel Hungama TV.

Meanwhile, an earlier deal that was to go through with Malaysia's Astro All Asia Entertainment Networks has not yet closed, another dealer said. Astro was to take 26.01 per cent in UHE for a consideration of $7 million (Rs 310 million), putting the enterprise valuation at a little under $28 million (Rs 1.24 billion). While UTV was to hold 49 per cent, the balance was to be with UTV founder-promoter Ronnie Screwvala.

The market buzz is that Disney would hold at least a controlling stake in Hungama TV, a dealer said. UTV had earlier in its FY06 results announced that the capital employed in UHE was Rs 840 million. This was used to fund Hungama TV's operations. UTV has made investments of Rs 680 million into the channel till then.

Neither UTV nor Walt Disney Company (India) Ltd were available for comment. UTV had earlier denied a report in a leading financial daily, stating in a notice to the stock exchange that it was not in talks with Walt Disney to sell 30 per cent stake in UHE.

MTV Networks India had also been in talks with UTV but the two parties could reach no common grounds on valuation. The plan was to have a second channel along with Nick, which was struggling to get audiences. MTV, sources say, was interested in buying out Hungama TV.

UTV, meanwhile, is planning to merge United Entertainment Solutions Ltd, a post production subsidiary company, with itself. In a move to consolidate the post production business, the company had acquired Western Outdoor in 2002. UTV also has a strong presence in movie production and is into animation business.

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