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Star India Sells 26% Stake in Ekta Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms

Star India, 21st Century Fox’s pay-TV group, has sold its 26% stake in Balaji Telefilms.

The film and TV production house has been responsible for some of India’s biggest hit soap operas including “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi,” “Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii” and “Kasautii Zindagii Kay.”

Star acquired a 21% stake in 2008 and subsequently increased that to 25.99%.

According to local reports the stake was sold in a stock market transaction at an average of 63.60 rupees (99 cents), implying a loss compared with the average$1.40 paid. The identity of the buyer or buyers remains unknown, though Balaji’s “promoter group” of core shareholders is the most likely candidate. News of the deal lifted Balaji shares by 15% to $1.50.

Local reports of tensions between the two companies had recently surfaced in local media.

Star CEO Uday Shankar was quoted by Indian media as saying the divestment was part of his company’s focus on core businesses. “Our programming and contractual relationships with Balaji are deep and we continue to work on strengthening them to our mutual benefit,” he said.

Star and Balaji had enjoyed an exclusivity clause under which Balaji-produced shows could not run on other networks at a time of day when Star was running a Balaji series. In return for this, and the services of Ekta Kapoor, widely known as the queen of Indian soaps, Star paid license fees believed to be significantly higher than market rates. Balaji currently produces shows for Sony, Zee and 9X as well as Star Plus.

The two companies also recently disclosed the collapse of a joint venture company that had been intended to launch a bouquet of regional language channels.

Balaji also has a wholly owned feature film arm, started in 2007, Balaji Motion Pictures. It has credits including “Ragini MMS,” “Shootout at Lokhandwala” and “The Dirty Picture.”

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