Fox's Star India Sells Stake in Production Firm Balaji

Star India
Star India CEO Uday Shankar

The content production entity's film unit last year inked a three-picture deal with Relativity's India joint venture.

21st Century Fox's Star India network has sold its 25.99 percent stake in Indian television and film production house Balaji Telefilms, which has produced some of India's biggest shows.

Most of them, such as the long-running soap Kabhi Saas Bhi Kabhu Bahu Thi, have aired on Star India's entertainment channels.

Last year, Balaji's film unit Balaji Motion Pictures and Relativity's India joint venture, with local partner B4U Networks, announced a three- picture deal, which includes a planned Bollywood remake of The Best of Me.

According to local reports quoting data from the Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India, around 16.9 million shares of the production company changed hands in deals at an average price of about $1 (63.60 rupees) a share, valuing the deal at about $17 million (1.08 billion rupees). Balaji shares rose 15 percent in intra-day trading. The buyer of the Balaji stake is not known.

In a statement, Star India CEO Uday Shankar said the exit was "in line with our strategy to focus on core businesses where Star has the ability to shape and scale the future growth path of its investments. Our programming and contractual relationships with Balaji are deep, and we continue to work on strengthening them to our mutual benefit."

Star first acquired a 21 percent stake in Balaji in 2004 via its Dubai-based affiliate Asian Broadcasting for about $25 million (rupees 1.55 billion) and then upped its stake to 25.99 percent. The companies had an exclusive content agreement allowing Star to air Balaji content, which was later discontinued, freeing Balaji to also sell its shows to other networks such as Sony and Zee. According to reports, Star had been looking to offload its stake since 2008 in light of tensions between the two companies, supposedly due to the declining ratings of Balaji shows.

Balaji was founded in the mid-1990s by Ekta Kapoor, the daughter of veteran actor Jeetendra, whose runaway success as a producer of a string of hit soaps made her a household name. The company launched its film banner in 2007, which produced such titles as Ragini MMS and The Dirty Picture.

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