<p>Bennett, Coleman & Co, the country’s largest media house which brings out Times of India, Economic Times and Navbharat Times, closed 2006-07 with sales of Rs 3,346 crore (up 19 per cent over the previous year), net profit of almost Rs 573 crore (up 31 per cent) and earnings per share of Rs 178.
At Rs 2,800 crore, advertising sales comprised 83.7 per cent of the company’s total revenue. In fact, its advertising revenue doubled in three years, and the company claimed to have 34 per cent share of print media advertisement market.
The company’s internal documents show that its flagship brands, Times of India and Economic Times, grew nearly 8 per cent in 2006-07 with average daily net sales of 3.2 million and 700,000, respectively.
Bennett, Coleman had reserves of almost Rs 3,400 crore in its balance sheet at the end of the year. Also, it had investments worth around Rs 3,000 crore in over 100 companies, 60 of which are listed.
This includes around 800,000 ICICI Bank shares bought last year and around 8 million HDFC Bank shares acquired at Rs 81. This resulted from the merger of Times Bank with HDFC Bank in 2000. Its investment in Kishore Biyani’s Pantaloon Retail has already doubled at the current market price.
These investments are private treaties or agreements with these companies, which are believed to have sold stake to Bennett, Coleman in lieu of advertising space in Times of India and Economic Times. According to the internal documents of the company, these stakes have a lock-in period.
The company is owned and controlled by the Jain family through eight investment companies. Indu Jain is the chairman of the company’s board and brothers Samir and Vineet hold the posts of vice-chairman & managing director, respectively. Each drew Rs 15 crore as annual remuneration.
|Private Treaty Investments
|Gitanjali Gems - Rs 40 crore
|Videocon - Rs 100 crore
|HDIL - Rs 15 crore
|Rajesh Exports - Rs 30 crore
|Vishal Retail - Rs 10 crore
Bennett, Coleman also owns 250 shares of the Press Trust of India and 548 shares of United News of India, both wire agencies. The company has also demerged some of its non-print ventures, possibly with an eye on partners or capital. These include Zoom Television Channel, website magicbricks.com and timesjobs.com.
There are some interesting, big names among the 13 directors on Bennett, Coleman’s board. AreclorMittal CFO Aditya Mittal and Kalpana Morparia of ICICI Group are the prominent outside directors on the board. R K Laxman, whose cartoons in Times of India have made him world-famous, too was inducted on the board three years back.
There has been quite a buzz recently of Bennett, Coleman finally going in for a public listing. If that were to happen, the company will surely get a good valuation. That would be a dramatic change in thinking for a company that has resisted the stock market temptation for several years.
(This is the first of a series on unlisted companies. By arrangement with UTVi Business News)