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Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Readies IPO for Network 18 Subsidiary

Flotation follows takeover of Indian entertainment combine by country’s richest man.

LONDON — After announcing plans to acquire a controlling stake in media conglomerate Network18 last week, billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries is planning to list its home shopping network HomeShop18 on the New York Stock Exchange.

HomeShop18 will launch an initial public offering to raise $150 million from the NYSE, according to sources familiar with the deal in Mumbai.
The Network18 takeover means that India’s richest man now directly controls the Indian local versions of MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central. It also runs news channel CNN-IBN in partnership with Turner International India, business news channels CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz in association with CNBC Asia, and the local version of the History channel in a joint venture with A&E Television Networks.

The Network18 group also operates powerful general entertainment channel Colors and a film studio Viacom18 Motion Pictures. 

It also sets Mukesh Ambani and Reliance Industries in direct media and entertainment industry competition with Anil Ambani and his Reliance ADA Group which spans Reliance Entertainment and a major stake in DreamWorks.

Reliance Industries last week made a $675 million offer for a 78% stake in Network18 which it will buy from its associate company Independent Media Trust. But the process began some two years back, when Mukesh Ambani provided a massive loan to Network 18 in the form of debentures that are convertible into shares.

Following the takeover announcement, Network18 founders Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur divested their shares in the company and senior management including CEO B. Sai Kumar, COO Ajay Chacko and CFO R.D.S. Bawa announced their departures. CNN-IBN editor Rajdeep Sardesai immediately went on leave.
In a message to Network18’s 4000 employees, Bahl and Kapur said: “Believe us, the group is in terrific hands. Mr Ambani is a visionary and truly good human being. And we have no doubt that Network18 would soar into the cloud’ under this dispensation.”

Reliance Industries has sunk in $11 billion in a 4G network that will imminently be rolled out to India’s 900 million mobile users via subsid Reliance Jio Infocomm. A first refusal content licensing agreement between Network18 and Jio Infocomm has been in place since 2012.

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