July 31, 2019 / 4:36 PM / 19 days ago

Oppenheimer boosts stake in India's Zee Entertainment

MUMBAI/BENGALURU (Reuters) - India’s Essel Group on Wednesday said it will sell part of its stake in its ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEE.NS) for 42.24 billion rupees ($614.19 million) to Invesco Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund.

The deal to sell 11% to the fund comes as the founders of Essel Group reduce their stake in Zee in a bid to pay off a debt of about 110 billion rupees by September this year.

Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund already owned 7.74% of Zee Entertainment at the end of June quarter, according to regulatory filings.

Essel Group is also in the process of divesting some of its non-media assets, the conglomerate said in a statement.

These assets include businesses in solar energy, road projects and transmission.

“We have non-binding offers (on non-media assets) which we are negotiating,” Punit Goenka, Managing Director and CEO, ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, said in an investor call.

“We want to maximize non-media asset realization so that we have to sell as little as possible of ZEE, which is our crown jewel. Having said that our priority is debt payment.”

Separately, a consortium led by U.S. cable and media giant Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) that includes Atairos, Blackstone and James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems earlier this week submitted a binding offer to buy out Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra from Zee Entertainment, the Economic Times reported on Tuesday.

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal and Chandini Monnappa; editing by Uttaresh.V and Deepa Babington

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