Television

Institutional finance on the up for Indian movies

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MUMBAI: Institutional finance is beginning to flow in to fund Indian movies. IDBI, for instance, has sanctioned Rs 5.5 billion on a cumulative basis over the last five years. Exim Bank, similarly, has extended lending to over Rs 4 billion for film projects which have potential to earn foreign exchange.

"Overseas earnings from films recently financed by us has touched Rs 1.15 billion. We are not only financing on the production, but also on the overseas distribution side. The industry has a lot of potential even in the animation business," said Exim Bank chairman & managing director TC Venkat Subramaniam, while speaking at "India The Big Picture," a seminar here today on the film entertainment industry organised by the CII.

Exim Bank has a lending cap of Rs 250 million for a single film project. The film industry earns an estimated Rs 69 billion a year, contributing 26 per cent to the total revenue of the entertainment sector. This is just 1.7 per cent of the global market, said Subramaniam.

Export revenues have jumped from Rs 2 billion in 1998 to Rs 4 billion in 2000 and further to Rs 11 billion in 2005, accounting for 16 per cent of the total earnings. "There is a healthy outlook as we increase earnings from the international market, strengthen animation outsourcing, provide institutional financing and extend government incentives," he added.

IDBI is also cautiously bullish on the industry. "We have funded 70 movies. We are not only providing rupee loans but also in dollars for borrowers to hedge foreign exchange risk. Besides, we are extending line of credit so that film producers can cover up not on one but a slate of movies," said IDBI general manager Aloke Dasgupta.

IDBI funds only projects which have a minimum budget of Rs 4 billion and have a debt-equity ratio of 1:1. "We are providing financial support only for film production. We don't fund in the reail and distribution end of the business. But for supporting smaller movies, we are in dicussions with NFDC to ensure that money is put in the right place for such projects," said Dasgupta.

But are the southern films having access to institutional finance? South Indian Film Exporters association president and MD of Ananda Exports L Suresh said film financing had not trickled down to the southern region. "It is probably because most of the banks are headquartered in Mumbai. Besides, banks take a long time to sanction loans and we finish production within three months. Besides, banks insist on collateral securities," he said.

Speaking on the sidelines, Dasgpta, however, said IDBI had financed Tamil and Telugu movies.

Speaking on the occasion, Sony Pictures India MD Uday Singh said financial rigour was essential as the movie business is not without risks and revenue leakages. Media is fragmented and there are market access issues in certain states. "We have done enough hard work and there is now a bottom-up realism. We are extending from our distibution business and getting into film production as well. We are starting with one but are in alks with other directors as well. Our mandate is to have a slate of at least 2-3 films in a year's time," he said.

Emphasising on the importance of a theatrical success, he said the Hollywood studios are realising that fast growth would come from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets.

Ernst & Young partner and head of media practice Farokh Balsara said the home video segment accounted for just 4 per cent of filmed entertainment revenues while in the US it was as high as 50 per cent. This sement could see increased activity as ventures capitalists have started to invest into new models of home video.

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