India's Richest Man in Talks to Buy Stake in Media Conglomerate Network18 (Report)
Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, is in talks to buy a stake in TV and Web conglomerate Network18, the Wall Street Journal reported.
His foray into the media and entertainment space will be closely watched given that he is arguably India's most powerful businessman, it said.
Plus, an investment could further a feud with his brother Anil who already is a large media player via his Reliance Group, which has a TV joint venture with the CBS Studios International unit of CBS Corp. and is a financing partner of Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio. The company also is a big player in film production and processing. The two brothers split up their family empire in 2005, a few years after their father's death.
Mukesh Ambani is chairman of Indian energy and petrochemicals giant Reliance Industries.
Network18, whose founder and controlling shareholder is Raghav Bahl, has partnerships with U.S. entertainment giants that have given it India's versions of NBCUniversal's CNBC, Viacom's MTV and Nickelodeon and Time Warner's CNN. The company also owns a top-rated Hindi entertainment channel and some of the country's largest e-commerce sites, the Journal highlighted.
Network18 has also held discussions with other potential investors, and the talks with Ambani may not necessarily lead to a deal, the paper said. It also isn't clear what the value of any investment would be and whether Ambani is holding the talks on behalf of Reliance Industries or whether he is looking to put his own cash into the company.
But one person familiar with the situation told the paper that one option is for Ambani to take a minority stake in Network18 and combine it with Eenadu TV, a regional TV broadcaster, in which he owns a large stake.
A spokesman for Reliance Industries told the Journal that the company doesn't comment on market speculation. A representative for Network18 referred questions to Bahl who didn't respond to an email, it added.
Forbes in an annual ranking has put Ambani's wealth at $22.6 billion, while listing his brother's net worth at $5.9 billion.