Sony joins race to buy stake in ZEEL

Mumbai: Japanese major Sony Corporation looks to pick up stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL), according sources. The multinational conglomerate is said to be in talks with Zee’s promoter Essel Group to buy a part stake or control in the company, said sources, requesting anonymity. The Essel Group had in November last year, announced that the company would sell a part of its stake in Zee Entertainment to a global strategic investor. Sony Corp has a large broadcast television presence in the country through Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India.

The company has been strategising to beef up the broadcast TV business in India, according to an industry expert. Currently, Zee is available through its television presence across 117 countries. Sony was also in the race to acquire Twenty-First Century Fox’s entertainment assets, which was eventually acquired by Disney for $71.3 billion. Post-acquisition Disney will replace Fox as partners of Star India, which has a huge television presence in the country. After losing out to Star, Sony is trying to increase its presence in the Indian television space by acquiring Zee Entertainment.

American broadcaster Comcast is also in the fray and the company is exploring the deal, the sources added. Chinese investors such as Tencent and Alibaba are also shown interest in the digital content platform of Zee Entertainment, ZEE5, said the sources, adding US giant Amazon may also enter in the race, especially for the OTT (over the top) platform of Zee.

The first round of bid is likely to happen in the next few days, a source added. Sony said, “We do not comment on speculation.” The company’s discussions pertaining to the stake sale, with the prospective partners are ongoing and the progress is extremely positive, Zee spokesperson said.

“At this stage, we do not wish to comment on the name of the prospective partner. Once the deal is at an advanced and closure stage, we will certainly announce the relevant details. We would also like to request you to refrain from reporting any news based on market speculations or rumours, and to kindly wait for an official response or statement from ZEE Entertainment’s Corporate Communications team,” the company said.

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