Just two months after the Eenadu and Network18 deal, the Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee Network has emerged as front-runner in buying out the majority 51 per cent stake in English news channel NewsX.
According to sources, the deal is likely to be struck at Rs 65-70 crore. The channel is now jointly promoted by Nai Dunia owner Vinay Chhajlani and the former editor of BusinessWorld, Jehangir Pocha. They bought it in 2009 from INX.
Sources said there are other suitors negotiating with the NewsX promoters but Zee seems to have advanced the most. These sources add that Zee may eventually raise stake further in the company.
Mails to the spokesperson for Zee did not get a response, while Pocha declined to comment. For Zee, the deal will give an entry to the competitive general English news space, with the likes of Times Now, NDTV 24x7, CNN-IBN and Headlines Today.
Zee Network currently operates Zee News , Zee Business, Zee Punjabi, Zee News UP and Uttarakhand, Zee 24 Gantalu, a round-the-clock Marathi news channel, 24 Taas, and a 24-hour Bengali news channel, 24 Ghanta. Their news business is operated under Zee News, while Zee Entertainment Enterprises operates the general entertainment, music, regional and sports channels.
NewsX, struggling to make a mark in the market, had hired some known names to strengthen special shows in areas such as foreign affairs and sport. The channel was to be renamed as IMN News in September 2010 but this was postponed.
In 2009, INX Media founder and former Star India CEO Peter Mukherjea and his wife, Indrani, exited the news business. INX Media was launched in 2007-08 after Mukherjea cobbled $170 million through a private equity fund. Around 50 per cent stake is owned by consortium PE players, led by New Silk Route. After two meandering years, the company went for a restructuring in 2009, which saw the Mukherjeas stepping down from the management. They continue to be shareholders, but the management is largely handled by Pradeep Guha, a former CEO of the Zee group, on behalf of the PE investors.
The company is now called 9X Media . At present, it operates three channels — a Hindi music channel 9XM, Punjabi music channel 9X Tashan and 9X Jhakaas, a Marathi music channel.