MURDOCH JR EYES 30% IN PERCEPT CO

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WITH AN eye on the burgeoning Indian entertainment industry, Lachlan Keith Murdoch — son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch — is in advanced talks to acquire approximately 30% stake in Percept Picture Company (PPC). According to sources, the deal is said to be pegged at Rs 250 crore with Mr Murdoch looking at increasing his stake at a later stage.

PPC has produced films such as Hanuman and is involved in co-producing Ram Gopal Varma’s English supernatural thriller Within. Percept also has a deal with Madhur Bhandarkar to create and produce his films. Currently, they are in talks with Hollywood biggies such as Michael Douglas and Penelope Cruz for their international ventures.

Percept Holdings vice-chairman and MD Harindra Singh said, "Yes, we are negotiating with strategic partners, including Mr Lachlan Murdoch, but have no intention to offload any stake in Percept Holdings. But, we are looking at diluting stake in Percept Picture Company (PPC)." Currently, the entertainment division is being run with internal accruals and borrowed funds.

"We are looking at a strategic partnership in both cash and kind with somebody who could bring in better ways to monetise the IPR assets we have, and also provide global expertise to our busi nesses," said Mr Singh. An e-mail query to Illyria Pty Ltd., Mr Murdoch’s company based in Aus tralia, failed to elicit a response. Recently, there were reports of Mukesh Ambani roping in Peter Mukerjea and Lachlan Murdoch for his TV foray.

Percept Holdings has a 75% stake in PPC, the balance being owned by brothers — Harindra and Shailendra Singh — along with the rest of the pro moters. Percept Holdings also has a celebrity man agement company, an advertising agency, an out door media business and a PR firm in its portfolio Percept Holdings has over 900 people across three continents in 61 offices with capitalised billings of Rs 1,321 crore. Recently, the seven-year-old part nership between UK-based Aegis Media and Per cept Holdings came to an end. As a result, Percept has complete ownership of Percept D’Mark, the outdoor media business and Percept-led media businesses in Carat India. In 2002, London-based Aegis had acquired a 25.1% stake in PDM India and subsequently in 2004, they acquired a 51% stake in Percept’s out-of-home business — Posterscope India. It’s now called Percept OOH.

India’s media and entertainment turf is the cynosure of all eyes, mostly foreign. In 2005 Temasek Holdings of Singapore took a 14.9% stake in Mumbai-based Shringar Films. Last year Australia-based Macquarie Bank acquired about 6.6% in entertainment company UTV Software Communications with Walt Disney also acquir ing 14.9 % in the firm, besides buying out Hunga ma TV from UTV. In November last, after waver ing between Zee Telefilms and Sony, Ten Sports too finally sold its controlling stake to Zee in cash deal worth over Rs 256.6 crore.

Around the same time, Delhi-based production house Miditech, promoted by Alva brothers, too was in advanced talks with PE firms to raise Rs 100 crore for its expansion plans. Nimbus Communica tions also received a fresh round of PE funding worth Rs 552 crore from 3i, Cisco and Oman In vestment Fund. Anil Ambani is another player bet ting big on this sector and has picked up controlling stake in Adlabs and Synergy Communication.

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