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Walt Disney to buy out Hungama TV, take 15% stake in UTV

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MUMBAI: The Walt Disney Company today announced that it has entered into an agreement to wholly acquire Hungama TV and take a 14.9 per cent equity interest in media company UTV Software Communications Ltd, in each case subject to regulatory approval.

Disney has entered into an agreement to acquire 100 per cent of United Home Entertainment LTD (Hungama TV) at an enterprise valuation of $30.5 million and purchase equity stake of 14.9 per cent of expanded capital in UTV Software Communications LTD, at a consideration of $ 14 million. So, the total combined investment is $ 44.5 million.

The announcement confirms the news first put out by Indiantelevision.com that Disney would be buying into Hungama TV and picking up a small stake in UTV.

Hungama TV COO Zarina Mehta will be working closely with the Disney team for the next three months to ensure a smooth organisational and operational integration of Hungama TV into Disney's portfolio of kids channels. Post that Mehta will be working with Disney as a consultant for a period of six months to a year.

Once final, the acquisition will firmly establish Disney's ties in a rapidly growing media market where local content product is key. The combination of the three kids' channels -- Disney Channel, Toon Disney and Hungama TV -- will establish Disney as a strong contender against the market leader Turner India (Cartoon Network and Pogo).

"India is a long term strategic priority for the Walt Disney company. The acquisition of Hungama TV and the investments in UTV will significantly advance our presence in India and allow us to develop a strategic relationship with one of the countries leading integrated media companies," said Walt Disney International president Andy Bird.

"Not only will we be acquiring a great channel asset, we will also be able to participate in UTV's diversified businesses and bring to UTV our global media and synergy expertise, including developing and distributing high quality family friendly content in nearly 200 countries worldwide and expanding related franchises across film, TV, music, merchandise, new media and live entertainment," said Bird.

When queried on Disney's plans to launch a theme park in India, Bird answered in the negative. "We are not looking at a theme park in India," he said.

"TV is and will continue to be the major growth engine in building franchise affinity in India. Integrating Hungama TV in the Walt Disney Company's existing India channel portfolio of Disney Channel and Toon Disney will allow Disney to fortify its already strong presence in India's kids TV market," said Disney Channel Worldwide president Rich Ross.

When queried about the integration process of Hungama TV into Disney, Walt Disney Television International (Asia Pacific) senior vice president and managing director Nicky Parkinson said, "At present we are not sure how the integration will take place. We are in the process of finding out a way to best talk to kids. We are not here to cannabalise the market place. India is a relatively nascent market but one which has phenomenal potential."

"Hungama TV has proven its appeal to Indian children and families with compelling entertainment choices and has in a brief period built a strong management team and sucked out a leadership position in the competitive children's TV environment. We are also delighted that Disney has chosen to make a strategic investment in UTV, which will augment our business in India and around the world," said UTV group CEO Ronnie Screwvala.

Launched in September 2004, Hungama is a 24-hour Hindi-language entertainment cable channel for children and is currently in a close fight with Turner's Pogo channel for the the number two position in the Indian kids space behind leader Cartoon Network. Hungama TV has a staff strength of 71.

Disney currently reaches over 107 million television homes in India through a programme block on Doordarshan and Disney Channel and Toon Disney/Jetix reached approximately 30 million homes on cable and satellite in India.

UTV has a diversified set of businesses, which includes television and film production and distribution, animation production, and other services.

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