Chandras may sell small stake in Zee Entertainment to financial investors

Subhash Chandra
The Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group,  expecting to raise more than the initial target from sale of its infrastructure assets, is looking at the option of selling a small stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) for raising funds to repay loans. The group may enter an agreement with a strategic investor at a later stage, sources close to the development said. 

The promoters expect to get Rs 9,000-10,000 crore from the sale of their infrastructure assets. The earlier target was Rs 7,000 crore. Among the various options, the group could possibly ask the lenders for an extension of the September deadline and pay part of the Rs 13,000-crore dues. With an extension, it expects to be in a better position to make a deal to sell part of its shares in ZEEL. 

If lenders refuse, the Chandras could consider striking a deal with financial investors, including private equity funds to sell around 10 per cent of stake in ZEEL. This, the group believes, will be enough at the current market cap to pay the remaining loan.  

With a better realisation from asset sale,  sources said the group may not require to sell 20 per cent of its shares in ZEEL by end of July. Calculations suggest that the group would need to raise Rs 3,000-4,000 crore from the sale of promoter shares, instead of the earlier plan of Rs 6,000 crore, giving it more time to strike a deal with a strategic investor.

“Earlier they needed a strategic investor and were willing to give up even up to 25 per cent as they had to raise money by September or go into default,’’ an executive close to the developments pointed out. Now, they can negotiate from a position of strength with a strategic investor, he said. ‘’The investor will be important not for its cash but for the technology and the global footprint it will bring into the alliance,” the executive said. A Zee group spokesperson said, “The process of Zee Entertainment’s stake sale is in an advance stage. The group has received two non-binding term sheets and the overall process is well within the purview of the September 30 deadline. Any additional details cannot be shared due to confidentiality agreements”.     

The promoters had taken a loan of Rs 13,000 crore from NBFCs and mutual funds to finance their foray into long-term infrastructure projects. Around 59 per cent of the promoters’ stake in ZEEL was pledged for this. With the stock price of the company crashing on January 25, some lenders had dumped over Rs 500 crore worth of shares in panic. After a meeting with lenders, promoters had agreed to pay back the loan by September through a combination of infrastructure asset sale and sale of half of the promoters’ (41.6 per cent ) stake in ZEEL. It is believed that Sony, which is also in talks with Comcast, had earlier decided to take a back seat in pursuing a deal with the Zee group. But it is now back on the table. 

The promoters had recently struck a deal for three of their 12 road projects with CDPQ — a Canadian fund management firm — which will help them raise funds of Rs 3,500 crore. 

Roughly, it expects to generate over Rs 2,000 crore from sale of transmission assets and another Rs 3,000 crore from hawking its solar assets.    

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