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Reliance, Disney merge Indian media assets to create $8.5bn JV

NEW DELHI, February 28, 2024

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), along with its key unit Viacom 18 Media Private Limited, today (February 28) announced the signing of binding definitive agreement with The Walt Disney Company to form a joint venture that will combine the businesses of Viacom18 and Star India. 
 
As part of the transaction, the media undertaking of Viacom18 will be merged into Star India Private Limited (SIPL) through a court-approved scheme of arrangement.
 
In addition, RIL has agreed to invest at closing ₹11,500 crore ($1.4 billion) into the JV for its growth strategy.
 
The transaction values the JV at ₹70,352 crore ($8.5 billion) on a post-money basis, excluding synergies. Post completion of the above steps, the JV will be controlled by RIL and owned 16.34% by RIL, 46.82% by Viacom18 and 36.84% by Disney.
 
Disney may also contribute certain additional media assets to the JV, subject to regulatory and third-party approvals, said the company in a statement.
 
As part of the deal, Nita M. Ambani will be the Chairperson of the JV, while Uday Shankar, the Co-founder of Bodhi Tree Systems, will be the Vice Chairperson, providing strategic guidance to the JV.
 
Bodhi Tree Systems is a strategic investor in consumer technology opportunities in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on India.
 
The entity is a platform of James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and Uday Shankar and was established in 2021 to explore and invest in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
 
According to Walt Disney, tthe new media powerhouse will emege as one of the leading TV and digital streaming platforms for entertainment and sports content in India, bringing together iconic media assets across entertainment (e.g. Colors, StarPlus, StarGOLD) and sports (e.g. Star Sports and Sports18) including access to highly anticipated events across television and digital platforms through JioCinema and Hotstar. 
 
The JV will have over 750 million viewers across India and will also cater to the Indian diaspora across the world.
 
The JV will seek to lead the digital transformation of the media and entertainment industry in India and offer consumers high-quality and comprehensive content offerings anytime and anywhere. 
 
The combination of the media expertise, cutting-edge technology and diverse content libraries of Viacom18 and Star India will allow the JV to offer more appealing domestic and global entertainment content and sports livestreaming services, while delivering an innovative and convenient digital entertainment experience at affordable prices, it stated. 
 
With the addition of Disney’s acclaimed films and shows to Viacom18’s renowned productions and sports offerings, the JV will offer a compelling, accessible and novel digital-focused entertainment experience to people in India and the Indian diaspora globally.
 
The JV will also be granted exclusive rights to distribute Disney films and productions in India, with a license to more than 30,000 Disney content assets, providing a full suite of entertainment options for the Indian consumer.
 
On the new venture, Mukesh D Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said: "This is a landmark agreement that heralds a new era in the Indian entertainment industry. We have always respected Disney as the best media group globally and are very excited at forming this strategic joint venture that will help us pool our extensive resources, creative prowess, and market insights to deliver unparalleled content at affordable prices to audiences across the nation. We welcome Disney as a key partner of Reliance group."
 
Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said: "India is the world’s most populous market, and we are excited for the opportunities that this joint venture will provide to create long-term value for the company."
 
"Reliance has a deep understanding of the Indian market and consumer, and together we will create one of the country’s leading media companies, allowing us to better serve consumers with a broad portfolio of digital services and entertainment and sports content," he stated.
 
Uday Shankar said: "We are privileged to be enhancing our relationship with Reliance to now also include Disney, a global leader in media & entertainment. All of us are committed to delivering exceptional value to our audiences, advertisers, and partners. This joint venture is poised to shape the future of entertainment in India and accelerate the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making Digital India a global exemplar."
 
The transaction is subject to regulatory, shareholder and other customary approvals and is expected to be completed in the last quarter of 2024 or Q1 of 2025.
 
Goldman Sachs is acting as financial and valuation advisor and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Khaitan & Co and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co are acting as legal counsels to RIL and Viacom18 on the transaction. 
 
Ernst & Young has provided an independent valuation to RIL and Viacom18, while HSBC India acting as financial advisor has provided a Fairness Opinion to Viacom18.
 
The Raine Group is acting as lead financial advisor to Disney on the transaction, while Citi is acting as its financial advisor. 
 
Cleary Gottlieb served as lead outside counsel to Disney and Covington & Burling and AZB served as legal counsels to Disney on the transaction. BDO has provided an independent valuation to SIPL.-TradeArabia News Service



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