Zee Telefilms to launch Marathi news channel '24 Tas'

MUMBAI: Zee Telefilms Ltd. chairman Subhash Chandra is giving his news business a big push. His latest plan of action: to launch a Marathi news channel by the end of this year.

Zee News Ltd (ZNL), the company which houses the news and regional channels, plans to invest Rs 1 billion over three years for this venture. 24 Tas (24 hours), as such, will become the first channel in the Marathi news space.

"We plan to launch the Marathi news channel by December-end. Our projected investment for this is Rs 1 billion over a three-year period. We are putting the equipment in place," says Zee News Ltd. director Laxmi Goel.

More local language news channels are on the agenda. Goel had earlier told that the company would launch news channels in the southern languages. Zee already runs a Bengali news channel through a joint venture with Akash Bangla.

ZNL, will also be appointing a chief executive officer soon, said Goel. The company is also planning to launch a Tamil and a Malayalam channel to cover up all the southern language states.

The company expects to post a 33 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years to touch revenue of Rs 8.7 billion by FY 2011, up from Rs 2.01 billion in FY 2005-06. ZNL's operating margins, which stood at 16 per cent, are expected to expand to around 30 per cent during this period.

ZNL has a networth of Rs 1.7 billion. The capital employed (as of 1 April 2006) is Rs 2.31 billion with loan funds standing at Rs 612 million.

Chandra's expansive news plans include the recent acquisition of a majority stake in United News of India (UNI), a news wire agency, which will give him access to a widely spread out infrastructure.

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