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RIL in talks to raise $1.6 bn for media JV as Viacom seeks lower stake

Reliance Industries is in talks with investors to raise up to $1.6 billion for its broadcasting business as its partner, ViacomCBS , looks to pare its interest in the joint venture, two sources told Reuters on Thursday.

Reliance is holding talks with an investment company set up by James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and former Disney India executive Uday Shankar to together pick up a significant stake in the Viacom18 joint venture, one of the sources with direct knowledge said.

Currently, Reliance holds a 51% stake in Viacom18, with ViacomCBS holding the rest. Viacom18 runs several TV channels in India, including Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

If the deal materializes, Reliance would continue holding a majority stake, while ViacomCBS’s stake is likely to fall to 10%, according to Indian media, which first reported the deal talks earlier on Thursday.

Reliance Industries declined to comment, saying the “company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis.”

ViacomCBS, Murdoch and Shankar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The discussions come amid growing competition in broadcasting sector.

Sony’s India entertainment unit has plans to buy local rival Zee, merging TV channels, film assets and streaming platforms to become a dominant business in the sector.

Indians are rapidly adopting streaming platforms, including Netflix Inc and Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video, luring users with cheaper plans and local language content.  The Hindu BusinessLine

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