NDTV CEO Confirms Meetings With Turner, Downplays Significance

Our sources had told us earlier this week that Turner officials were in NDTV’s offices in India and were engaged in some sort of due diligence for a possible investment. But NDTV had not responded to requests for comments on the issue.

Today we put the question to NDTV CEO K.V.L. Narayan Rao, who confirmed the meetings, but downplayed its significance. “In the course of business, companies meet many people regularly. And the lot you are talking about are old friends of the organization and meetings are only natural. To read anything more to it at this point would be entirely speculative.”

We had put the question to Stephen J. Marcopoto, president of Turner International Asia Pacific, on Monday and it elicited the following templated response from a company spokesperson. “We do not comment on speculation. However, with two channels (REAL, a hindi GEC, and an English movie channel with our sister company, WBITV) to launch this year, India is a very important market for Turner, and we are continually exploring opportunities to expand our businesses in India.”

Turner already has an entertainment channel coming up under a joint venture with Alva Brothers Entertainment and NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) holds 26% in NDTV Networks Plc., under which NDTV Imagine Ltd–the company that broadcasts the general entertainment channel NDTV Imagine–is housed. NBC also has the option of raising the investment to 50% over three years. NDTV’s board approved a demerger plan in October 2006, under which News and Non-News will become different entities. “We believe that demerger would open up an opportunity to rope in strategic and/ or financial investor at individual business level,” wrote IDFC SSKI analysts Nikhil Vora and Bhushan Gajaria in a 15 October research report.

For the quarter ended 31 December, NDTV reported consolidated losses of Rs120 crore.

Exchange4media first reported that NDTV is in talks with Turner.

The full structure of NDTV’s businesses is here, courtesy IDFC SSKI Research (click to enlarge):