Star India, Balaji end joint venture

Split follows Murdoch move into regional channel space

NEW DELHI -- Mumbai-based Star India and Balaji Telefilms, one of India's most successful TV production companies, on Tuesday agreed to end a joint venture to launch regional language channels for South India.

The split comes soon after a visit to India by Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns Star. Murdoch said Star would invest $100 million to launch six regional channels, an announcement that raised doubts about the future of the Star-BTL joint venture formed in April 2007.

The Star-BTL split will see BTL buy back from Star the 25.99% stake it sold for roughly $75 million at $4.75 per share. The buyback must happen inside 240 days or Star will be free to sell to another noncompetitor.

BTL produces six shows for Star's Hindi entertainment channel Star Plus, shows that will continue. Both parties also agreed to work on a new show to be launched before November.