Reliance Industries is acquiring a majority holding in the Indian content provider Network 18 Media & Investments.
The group, controlled by Mukesh Ambani, could spend as much as INR40 billion ($678 million) on the acquisition.
The group is making bold strides into India’s 4G market, and this purchase underlines that. Reliance Industries’ subsidiary Reliance Jio Infocomm poses a significant threat to India’s entrenched market leaders after spending $1.7 billion to win spectrum in 14 of India’s 22 telecom circles.
The acquisition of Network 18 will provide Reliance Industries with attractive content to provide via its 4G frequencies when it launches services later this year. This will give the newcomer a competitive edge to take on Bharti Airtel and Vodafone.
Reliance first acquired holdings in Network 18 and its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast in 2012. The purchase of a controlling stake represents a growing trend in the 4G era, as distribution deals for TV and online content are increasingly falling out of favour as they are considered less strategically valuable.
Network 18, partnered locally with Viacom, will provide Reliance with business news portal moneycontrol.com as well as other news and e-commerce sites. TV18’s channels include Colors, CNBC-TV18 and CNN-IBN.
Reliance will conduct the transaction via the Independent Media Trust. The operator has sanctioned up to $678 million of funding that the IMT will then use to obtain stakes of 78% and 9% in Network 18 and TV18 respectively. It will also offer to buy out minority shareholders in both firms.
Once the deal has closed, Reliance Jio Infocomm could offer free TV and online content in a bid to attract subscribers to its 4G offering when it launches services in November.