TV9 in talks to buy 26 per cent stake in Indiavision

MUMBAI: Hyderabad-based Associated Broadcasting Company Pvt Ltd (ABCL), which operates under the TV9 brand, is in talks to acquire a 26 per cent stake in Malayalam news channel Indiavision.

ABCL and Indiavision have had the first round of discussions but couldn't agree on the valuation, a source familiar with the negotiations says. Indiavision was valuing the company at Rs 1 billion but ABCL is agreeable to a much lower figure, he adds.

The move is seen as a counter to the aggressive plans drawn by national broadcasters to step into the regional space. Zee News Ltd has already launched a Marathi news channel and others like Raghav Bahl's TV18 Group are waiting in the wings.

ABCL already runs a Telugu and a Kannada news channel. The company plans to launch a string of channels including a Mumbai-centric Hindi news channel. It is planning to raise Rs 2.5 billion from private equity funds to support all its expansion plans.

Senior executives of ABCL will be visiting Indiavision office next week to thrash out some form of deal, the source says. If talks on equity participation break, discussions on forming a strategic alliance will be pursued.

"ABCL could take up the marketing of Indiavision and an arrangement on infrastructure sharing could be worked out. Both the regional news networks realise that they need to strike an alliance as new competition is going to come from the bigger players," the source adds.

When contacted, Indiavision chairman and political leader Dr M K Muneer declined to comment.

ABCL is 80 per cent owned by iLabs, a venture fund, and Unified Group. The balance 20 per cent is held by Ravi Prakash and five other professionals.

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