Telefilms had raised $100 million through foreign currency convertible
bonds (FCCBs) early this year. How have the funds been deployed?
We are investing Rs 2.5 billion in our wholly owned subsidiary Siticable.
This will mainly be to expand our direct-to-home (DTH) distribution
network. A small part of it will be to upgrade the cable network
in Siticable. Most of the funding requirements will be met through
the amount we raised through the FCCBs. Besides, the proceeds of
the issue will be utilised for working capital expenditure requirements
and other areas of expansion. And if we are launching a sports channel,
that will suck up some investments.
companies have gone in for debt restructuring to take advantage
of falling interest rates. Has Zee also brought down its cost of
We have renegotiated and brought the interest rates down. The final
round was done some time in September. So we will feel the full
impact of this in the second half of the financial year.
you also brought down the gross debt?
We have been gradually reducing our gross debt and have brought
it down from Rs 6 billion a few years back to Rs 1 billion. Our
aim is to use our internal accruals to wipe that out. We just want
to have FCCBs as our debt component. It is, after all, a low cost
have you restructured the debt in the subsidiary companies?
ZTL's wholly owned subsidiary companies are debt-free now. All the
debt has been brought into the parent company. We capitalised Siticable,
which wasn't doing well, so that it became debt-free. The immediate
financial requirement was met and we repaid Siticable's debt of
around Rs 1.2 billion. We cleared the debt of $13 million in our
UK operations. In the US operations, we also do not have any debt.
We brought down the Rs 1.15 billion loan from ICICI to about Rs
450 million and refinanced it. We have brought down our working
capital borrowings to around Rs 250 million.
the growth of direct-to-home (DTH) subscribers slow? What is the
monthly average revenue per user (ARPU)?
Dish TV has 1.60 lakh (160,000) subscribers and the ARPU is Rs 175
a month. We aren't getting big revenues yet. We will break even
only when we have 1 million subscribers. We hope to increase our
offerings to 144 channels by 2005-end.
do you plan to revive Siticable?
Our access business has seen losses. There is a problem with the
revenue profile of Siticable. The cable TV distribution business
is affected by low declaration of subscribers from last mile operators.
The health of Siticable will bounce back once conditional access
system (CAS) comes into play in some form.
you reducing the head-ends in Siticable to centralise operations?
The direct-to-operator (DTO) business is to be serviced by the existing
head-ends. In Delhi, though, we are having a single head-end concept
in a bid to centralise operations.
has already launched a Telugu channel under the Alpha brand. When
are the other southern language channels coming up?
We are planning to launch channels in Tamil and Kannada, the two
big markets in the southern region. This will most likely be in
the next financial year. We will subsequently look at a Malayalam
the launch of Khalsa channel set for delay?
We are planning to launch it this Fiscal. The infrastructure is
being set up. Besides, we haven't yet got the uplinking permission.
about the southern music channel?
We have put it on hold. We have got the board approval for the channel.
But we haven't decided on the time of launch. We will see how the
other channels respond. The plan is to have a multi-lingual music
channel with majority of the content in Telugu and Kannada. We will
also have some amount of Tamil and Malayalam content in the channel.
TV and Zee Cinema have shifted broadcasting operations from Asia
Today Ltd. (ATL) to India. How are you adding value to ATL?
ATL is handling the English channels which are uplinked from abroad.
The US and UK operations are also with ATL. It will be our hub for
had a taken a syndicated loan. What is the status of that loan?
ATL is a debt-free company now. We had $15 million to clear in the
final stages. We paid it off last year.
do you see Zee's future growth coming from? Will movie business
be a significant contributor?
We will continue to grow revenues from the traditional sources.
Pay revenues are growing faster. We are seeing a relatively slower
growth in advertising revenues, but once Zee TV bounces back, this
segment will also see stronger growth.
you be using a portion of the FCCB proceeds for acquisitions?
We are looking at inorganic growth through acquisitions, overseas
or in India. But there is no mature development yet. We are sitting
on cash and if the opportunity arises, we will look at it seriously.