We did not start with a sellout in mind: Manajit Ghosal, CFO, Mid Day Multimedia

By , agencyfaqs! | In | December 17, 2003
What began as a bid to raise funds to fuel the company's expansion plans, has now got the Ansaris toying with the idea of a majority or full stake sale among other options

The suspense surrounding the Ansari family's equity dilution in Mid Day Multimedia Ltd could extend to the month-end if the scanning and sifting of bids submitted to the group is not completed within this week. According to Manajit Ghosal, CFO, Mid Day Multimedia Limited, the company has received fairly detailed and different proposals from "top of the lot, multiple media players", resulting in the company holding back on making an announcement so far. "There is a possibility," he says, "that the process could be closed by this week and we could zero in on the right player, in which case an announcement will be made," he says.

The Ansaris recently announced their decision to offload their stake in Mid Day Multimedia, which stands at 68.91 per cent, after receiving "several expressions of interest" from national as well as international media players. What has been unclear though is the extent to which the Ansaris, who are principle promoters of the company, would agree to dilute their stake.

Media reports have over the last few months speculated that the Ansaris could completely sell out though company officials have refuted the same from time to time. Ghosal clarifies that the company is open to the prospect of a 51 per cent, that is, a majority or full stake sale, at the right price. "We did not start with a sellout in mind though," he adds hurriedly. "The intention was never to sell off stake but merely to raise money for the expansion plans of the company," he says.

Observing the interest evinced by allied players to partner or invest in the company, the management, claims Ghosal, decided to keep its options open and not be too "dogmatic" about it. "We appointed DSP Merrill Lynch as the intermediary," he says, "and the offers we have received so far have been varied with some looking at a full buyout, some wanting a minority stake, still others a merger or some others a carving out," he adds.

Forerunners for an equity stake include Hindustan Times and Bennett & Coleman, promoters of The Times of India, though Ghosal refuses to be drawn into a conversation regarding the suitors or the price quoted. Some reports have indicated that Bennett & Coleman has offered an amount in the region of Rs 100 crore for the complete stake held by the Ansaris.

Given such varied reports, the question uppermost on everyone's mind is, will the Ansaris eventually sell out? Analysts believe that exiting the business is not exactly the best option. "Tariq Ansari is known to be a passionate CEO, who is involved with his business," opines Jaisurya Das, managing director and principal consultant of Pune-based Xanadu Consulting Group. "Bringing in somebody who can add value and which calls for some amount of parting with is better than exiting the business completely," he says.

The next few days will show which direction the pendulum will ultimately swing. "However, if the promoters do decide to exit the business, then the era of the Ansaris, at least at Mid Day, could be considered as good as over," observes a Delhi-based media planner. "Which is sad given that in their 24-year tenure they have single-handedly downed the shutters on at least three publications - Evening News, Free Press Bulletin and Bombay Magazine." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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