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Is RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group in talks with Living Media to pick majority stake?

Multiple sources privy to the development informed Best Media Info that the deal was in an advanced stage as the Aditya Birla Group plans to exit

With the Aditya Birla Group on its way to exit Aroon Purie-controlled Living Media India that runs India Today Group, the latter is believed to have agreed to sell out majority stake to the $2.6 billion (revenue) conglomerate RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. Multiple sources privy to the development informed Best Media Info that the deal was in an advanced stage.

The Aditya Birla Group had bought 27.5 per cent equity stake in Living Media in May 2012. The sources told Best Media Info that the stake went up gradually to a little less than a majority percentage figure and the Aditya Birla Group is willing to exit before it converts into shares.

When contacted, Dr Pragnya Ram, Group Executive President, Corporate Communications & CSR, Aditya Birla Management Corporation Private Limited, said, “We do not comment on market stories.” However, she did not deny such development.

Emails and text sent to Purie and Goenka remained unanswered till the time of filing of this report.

According to highly placed sources, the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group was among front runners prior to the Aditya Birla Group but it could not strike the deal because it wanted majority stake, which Purie was not willing to shell out. Five years on, the talks have revived again on the condition of buying out of majority stake in Living Media. “Some major management changes are on cards following the deal,” said another source in the know of the development.

Headquartered in Kolkata, the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group has interests in media through its media venture Open Media Network that runs the weekly current affairs and features magazine Open. The Group, which owns premium brands such as SaReGaMa, Spencer’s and Au Bon Pain, has assets in excess of Rs 31,000 crore. It has diverse business interests in industries like Power and Natural Resources, Carbon Black, Retail, Media, IT, Education and Entertainment and Infrastructure.

Living Media acts as a holding company and owns 57.2 per cent stake in TV Today Network. The listed company controls its broadcasting assets, including Aaj Tak and Headlines Today, and also operates its publishing business, which includes a host of magazines such as India Today.

TV Today Network’s total revenue for financial year ending March 31, 2017 stood at Rs 630.57 crore, up from Rs 602.19 crore in previous fiscal. The company reported a net profit of Rs 99.13 crore in 2016-17, up from Rs 61.66 crore in previous year.

According to various media reports, Aditya Birla Group had paid about Rs 350 crore to buy the stake. After the entry of Birlas, the stock price of TV Today had gone up sharply in the past five years from Rs 54 a share on May 18, 2012, the day the deal was announced, to Rs 253 now while it touched its high at Rs 348 in November last year.

Update: Both India Today Group and RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group denied any such development and called the report baseless and unfounded.

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