Alokananda Chakraborty

"We are tying up with ABP": STAR

STAR spokesperson has confirmed that the ABP group will be the majority shareholder in the STAR News venture

Breaking his silence on the proposed induction of an Indian partner into the STAR News venture, Yash Khanna, spokesperson, STAR India - who till yesterday neither confirmed nor denied if the deal between STAR News and ABP group was through - today maintained that the Kolkata-based group will be a "majority shareholder" in the venture. "Yes, we are tying up with them (the ABP group)," he said while speaking to agencyfaqs!.

Khanna, however, refused to be drawn into a discussion on ABP's exact stake in the business stating that it would be "as per the I&B directives on news uplinking ventures". The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has specified that an Indian entity should have a minimum of 51 per cent stake in any news uplinking venture.

Lead business daily Business Standard had recently reported that Aveek Sarkar-promoted ABP group will hold a 74 per cent stake in the venture with the balance to be held by STAR. The proposed investment of ABP is to the extent of Rs 75 crore, though no confirmation was forthcoming from Khanna regarding the investment figure.

With the deal between STAR News and ABP now public knowledge, the moot question is, what is to become of Media Content and Communication Services or MCCS, the company floated by STAR to provide news content for the channel.

As is known, adman Suhel Seth has a 30 per cent stake in MCCS, followed by DSP Merrill Lynch vice-chairman Hemendra Kothari who has a 25 per cent equity ownership. Vir Sanghvi, editor, Hindustan Times, Maya Alagh, television personality and wife of erstwhile chief of Britannia Industries, Sunil Alagh, and actor Jeetendra Kapoor hold 5 per cent each, while lawyer Raian Karanjiwala has a 4 per cent stake in the company.

Executives close to the development indicate that ABP may try to buy out the existing shareholders in MCCS though the air continues to be foggy on this count. agencyfaqs! learns that Aveek Sarkar, while speaking to the senior members of the ABP team earlier in the day, has mentioned that while the broad parameters of the deal has been thrashed out, "a few loose ends still need to be tied up".

To put things in perspective, ABP edged out formidable rivals such as Nusli Wadia of Bombay Dyeing and Shobana Bhartia of Hindustan Times to strike the deal with STAR News. Wadia, along with Sarkar of ABP, were shortlisted as possible candidates for the venture. However, Wadia, whose bid, according to reports, was sealed at Rs 40 crore, was apparently informed over the weekend that he was out of the race.

The road ahead for STAR News will be clear when a formal announcement on this partnership is made over the next few days. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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