Viacom's India Partner Takes Majority Stake in Joint Venture

Courtesy of Viacom18
Viacom18 Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats

Viacom reduced its stake in Viacom18 from 50 percent to 49 percent for $20 million in the venture that runs various TV, film and digital businesses, valuing it at $2 billion.

Viacom’s Indian partner Network18 has increased its stake in joint venture Viacom18 from 50 percent to 51 percent for $20 million, taking operational control of the company.

The deal values Viacom18 at $2 billion. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said late last year that Viacom, despite owning half of it, doesn't get "any value recognition for" the India business.

The companies also said that a brands and content licensing agreement between Viacom and Viacom18 has been extended by 10 years.

Viacom18 was established 10 years ago as an equal joint venture, which started off with a TV business running three channels — MTV India, Nickelodeon India and VH1 India. It has over the years grown to 44 channels in six different languages.

Viacom18 has also diversified into other businesses covering film, merchandising, live events and digital, including streaming video service Voot. The company’s film unit Viacom18 Motion Pictures just released the Bollywood epic Padmaavat last weekend, which became the top Bollywood opener in North America.

Network18 was originally co-founded by media professional Raghav Bahl in the mid-1990s and became a leading player in TV via its TV18 unit (which runs joint venture financial news network CNBC-TV18). In 2014, Network18 was acquired for $680 million by Reliance Industries (via holding entity Independent Media Trust), owned by India's richest tycoon Mukesh Ambani. His younger brother Anil Ambani separately runs his own group, Reliance ADA, which has been a financial backer of DreamWorks and Amblin Partners.

“Viacom 18 is one of the fastest-growing companies in India’s dynamic media and technology sector and, as a result of this transaction, we believe it will be even better-positioned for accelerated growth through closer integration and alignment with the Network 18 Group and its affiliates, including India’s fastest-growing mobile network, Jio,” said Viacom International Media Networks CEO David Lynn.

“We turned 10 last year and our growth journey has been exciting to say the least,” said Viacom18 CEO Sudhanshu Vats. “This development will allow us to leverage deeper synergies with Jio as we enter our next growth phase.”

“The transaction further enables our vision for Viacom18 to accentuate its focus on excellence and integration in the broadcast and digital space,” added Network18 chairman Adil Zainulbhai.

Viacom18 reported revenue of 30.4 billion rupees ($478 million) for the 2016-2017 financial year.

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