Sony calls off plans to buy in to Ten Sports

MUMBAI: Sony Entertainment Television (Set) India has called off its plans to buy a 50 per cent stake in Taj Television, the Dubai-based holding company that owns and operates Ten Sports. And the reasons for the breakdown in the talks, almost at the signing stage as it were, appear to be on the issue of valuation.

As per the information available with, the "best price" that Sony was finally willing to value the channel at was $ 90 million while Taj Television was unwilling to go below $ 120 million.

What is surprising to many industry observers is that it was the vexed issue of valuation that had forced negotiations to drag on for over a year, and the general perception going round was that all contentious issues had finally been sorted out.

Another pertinent point is that, among all the various figures that have been thrown up in the media in regards to the valuation being attached to Taj Television, the lowest quoted has been $ 110 million. That Sony's offer price is much below even this price is the other intriguing aspect of this case.

When contacted as to the reasons for the breakdown off negotiations at this late stage, Set India CEO Kunal Dasgupta refused comment except to confirm that the deal was indeed off.

"We remain in discussions with various parties," was all Taj Television CEO Chris McDonald would offer when contacted him in Dubai. 

Aside from Sony, Ten Sports, owned by Abdurrahman Bukhatir, has been in conversation with a number of parties including South African broadcaster Super Sports, Sahara One Media and Entertainment, Reliance-ADAG and Zee Telefilms.

Among the companies mentioned, Zee would likely have the most difficulty in working out any acquisition strategy in regards to Ten Sports because the channel is already locked in to a distribution deal with the rival Set-Discovery One Alliance that runs till October 2008.

Taj Television has mandated Ambit Corporate Finance to find a strategic investor. Ten Sports would require capital infusion even as the cricket properties it currently holds (Sri Lanka, West Indies and Pakistan boards) come up for renewal.

Taj Television is 100 per cent owned by Bukhatir Investments Limited, a UAE-based conglomerate with interests in banking, construction, real estate, trading, information technology, sports and broadcasting. Ten Sports is a sports channel which broadcasts in the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Hong Kong.

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