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Zee to rejig; mulls Siti Cable hive-off

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NEW DELHI: The Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee Telefilms, which is planning a restructuring of its businesses, is toying hiving off its distribution activities as a separate company.

On being specifically asked whether Siti Cable, the distribution arm of the company and the country biggest MSO, would be hived off as a separate company, a senior executive of Zee Telefilms admitted, “There is a possibility."

However, the executive was quick to point out that such an initiaive would not be done overnight. "We’ll have to take the shareholders’ nod for any such restructuring,” he added.
Yesterday, Zee Telefilms Ltd informed the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) that its board of directors would meet on 29 March 2006 to consider restructuring the company's businesses.

Few days back, Zee Telefilms finalised a deal for distribution of some family channels in Afghanistan where the flagship is now available on cable networks. Applications for landing rights in China too were made, but the chances are slim as China has stringent laws for non-Chinese broadcasting companies.

According to information available with Indiantelevision.com, Zee Telefilms -- India’s largest vertically integrated media company with its flagship Zee TV now inching back to the No. 2 position ahead of Sony --- is toying a de-merger of its businesses.

At the moment, all aspects of the broadcast business like content generation, marketing, distribution and syndication are carried out under the Zee Telefilms umbrella with different divisions.

The DTH business of Subhash Chandra is carried out by another concern, ASC Enterprise, which has a content supply agreement with Zee Telefilms for country’s first private sector DTH service Dish TV.

And, on Thursday Zee Telefilms announced at Ficci-Frames in Mumbai that the group’s digital media initiative will be carried out through a separate company called DMCL (Digital Media Convergence Ltd) that will facilitate the availability of digital content in India in association with Intel.

In the past, Chandra has gone on record saying that the company would explore opportunities of unlocking shareholders’ value by hiving off Siti Cable as a separate company and possibly listing it also.

Zee Telefilms subscription revenue (mainly garnered through distribution of TV channels; in India, Siti Cable is the vehicle) has been on the upswing with the company clocking Rs 1,751 million for the third quarter ended 31 Dec, 2005, signifying an increase of 7.8 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last fiscal.

Out of the total subscription revenue, domestic subscription amounted to Rs 716 million for the Q3 2006.

Meanwhile, the senior executive of Zee Telefilms talking to Indiantelevision.com said that the company in 2006-07 hoped to do better than the annual average advertising industry growth of 9-11 per cent.

Buoyed by good ad revenue (Q3 revenue: Rs 1,698 million, an increase of 12.3 per cent YoY), Zee Telefilms is set to increase ad rates across all channels by 30-40 per cent from the next financial year starting 1 April 2006.

In the last one month, shares of Zee Tele have been heading northward rising to over Rs. 250 during the intra-day trading on 23 March from being quoted at Rs 168.15 on 22 February on the BSE.

On Thursday, the Zee Tele scrip closed at Rs 242.70 after opening the day at Rs. 238.50.

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