Media IPOs loom on Indian horizon

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NEW DELHI -- The Indian media and entertainment industry is expected to raise $678.7 million from the Indian stock market via public issues that will be floated by 18 media companies, according to figures released by New Delhi-based financial data analyst Prime Database.

"There is growing interest in the media and entertainment sector amongst investors in general because we are now seeing corporate players adapting to professional ways of raising money and conducting their affairs," Prime Database managing director Prithvi Haldea said Thursday. "Historically, most Indian media companies have been tightly held by promoters, but they are now realizing that they need resources to expand and face competition."

Among the companies going public recently are New Delhi-based Global Broadcast News, which runs the CNN-IBN news network. GBN, a partnership between CNN and leading Indian broadcaster TV18, is expected to raise about $22 million from the markets.

Another issue that was concluded in late January was from Mumbai-based exhibitor Cinemax India.

"We just closed our issue which raised about $30 million," company secretary Amit Shah said in an interview. "There is a consumer boom thanks to good economic growth and people wanting to spend. Exhibitors like us are expanding rapidly to meet market demand, which probably explains strong investor interest that led to our public issue being oversubscribed by about forty times."

Though rumors have been rife here that Sony Entertainment Television plans to go public, CEO Kunal Dasgupta said this was not the case. "We are not going public at this stage because there are internal issues we need to examine first, such as the holding patterns of the various group companies we run under SET," Dasgupta said.

SET is registered in India and more than 60% of its shares are owned by parent Sony Pictures Entertainment, with the balance held by private investors and shareholders.

The total money estimated to be raised via showbiz issues this year could ultimately reflect a three-fold increase from the $266 million raised via floatations by six media companies last year.

An indicator of the market interest in entertainment is seen in share prices of stocks such as those of leading South Indian broadcaster Sun TV, which listed last year with an offer price of $19.40 and is now trading about $33.70.
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