Exim Bank puts Rs 2 billion behind films in FY07, mulls equity in animation companies

MUMBAI: For the Bollywood industry which is keen to tap the overseas market, there is good news. The Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) is willing to loosen its purse strings and has extended funding to the tune of Rs 2 billion for eight movies during the current fiscal.

Exim Bank, in fact, has funded the recently released Yash Raj Films' big ticket movie Dhoom 2. "We have lent Rs 2 billion to the film industry this fiscal," Exim Bank chairman & managing director TC Venkat Subramaniam tells "Our total exposure to the sector is Rs 4 billion."

Of the other Yash Chopra movies funded by Exim Bank are Veer Zaara, Hum Tum, Bunty Aur Babli and Dum. The Bank has also financed Don (Rs 100 million) and Mangal Pandey - The rising (Rs 80 million). Exim Bank has been funding Hindi movie projects which have a potential to earn foreign currency revenues in the overseas market.

Animation is another area in the entertainment sector that has drawn the attention of Exim Bank. It is eyeing the option of picking up equity in start-up animation companies. "With their outsourcing models, animation companies in India have the potential to grow. Apart from prividing debt, we may consider equity participation in the start-ups. But for the companies which are listed and are already enjoying high valuations, it doesn't make sense for us to enter as equity partners because they are already highly valued," says Subramaniam.

Exim Bank is in talks with an animation company to provide finance for the expansion needs. With Crest Animation Studios Ltd, it has already agreed to lend $7 million to Crest Animation Studios Ltd.

The Bank has extended lending to over Rs 4 billion for film projects which have potential to earn foreign exchange. "We are not only financing on production but also on the overseas distribution side.

Noted film producer Bobby Bedi will approach Exim Bank to discuss his new project Mahabharata for which he plans to invest Rs 3-4 billion. Bedi is considering institutional financing for the epic project which will extend to a talent hunt, TV series, film trilogy, gaming, animation and a theme park. "Bedi is looking at an innovative financial structuring. He is taking the project to financial institutions. He is also going to approach Exim Bank for this," an industry source says.

Exim Bank will examine the cash-flow situation of the project as it spans over different formats and will take a longer period to complete.

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