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Comcast, partners make offer for stake in Subhash Chandra's Zee Ent

Comcast, partners make offer for stake in Subhash Chandra's Zee Ent plan to snap up a 51% stake in the media company.

Subhash Chandra
Subhash Chandra owns Essel Group, India’s biggest television network that includes the Zee channels. (Bloomberg)

A consortium that includes U.S. cable giant Comcast Corp., James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and Blackstone Group Inc. has made an offer for a stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., India’s largest private broadcaster, people familiar with the matter said.

The group plans to snap up a 51% stake, which has a market value of about Rs 19,000 crore ($2.77 billion), said one of the people, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private. The bid is non-binding, the people said.

A deal could be announced as soon as Wednesday and there could be more investors, another person said. Deliberations are ongoing and might not result in a deal, the people said. Representatives for Comcast and Blackstone declined to comment, while a representative for Zee had no immediate comment.

Zee, the Mumbai-based broadcaster controlled by former rice trader-turned-media mogul Subhash Chandra, is seeking a strategic investor to help pay off debts of its parent group as well as fend off competition from Netflix, Amazon and hundreds of local TV channels vying to tap India’s booming demand for content.

A deal would give Comcast, Lupa and Blackstone control of Zee’s deep library of content and its ZEE5 platform offering Bollywood films and more than 90 television channels in 12 languages on-demand via Internet. Some of the world’s largest telecommunications companies including AT&T Inc., Vodafone Group Plc and KDDI Corp. have been buying film and television production and cable TV assets to bolster earnings as subscribers level off.

Shares of Zee slipped 0.2% in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon, while the S&P BSE 100 Index was little changed.