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Sahara, Anil mum on buzz of channel deal

Mumbai, Jan. 25: Sahara is in talks with Anil Ambani to sell Sahara One, the flagship TV channel of the group’s media business, industry sources say, though neither side will comment.

Immediately after Jet bought its airline, Sahara had, in fact, dismissed reports of plans to sell any of its other businesses.

The sources, however, said the negotiations between the two sides ' they are close by virtue of their friendship with Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh ' had got bogged down in a disagreement over the price.

They added that Sahara One Media and Entertainment had valued the channel around Rs 300 crore. Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Enterprises (ADAE) is believed to be ready to pay no more than Rs 140-150 crore. “The talks have got into a bit of a jam now because Sahara is asking for too much money. We think it is pretty steep. There is not much of value that we can get out of the brand,” said an ADAE source. A senior executive of a media management company involved in the sale proceedings confirmed the talks. “Sahara One is up for sale. They are in the middle of negotiations at present with a big industrial group,” the executive said.

Officially, ADAE and Sahara refused to comment.

The ADAE source said: “We are keen to enter the television segment and are looking at acquisitions and not setting up greenfield projects.”

Even while reports began to appear about the move to sell Air Sahara, the Lucknow-based group of Subroto Roy had denied them. Eventually, the airline was sold to Jet for $500 million.

The management consultancy Ernst & Young is conducting an exercise for a possible restructuring of the Sahara group. The restructuring is expected to focus on Sahara’s core businesses: finance, real estate and media and entertainment businesses.

The news channels owned by the group are not for sale. The group’s movie production business has been doing well, too, concentrating on small- and medium-budget films that have fetched good box-office returns. Over the past year, it has released 12 titles. Five of them: No Entry, Sarkar, Hanuman, Page 3, Phir Milenge and Yahaan did reasonably good business.

Sahara One Media and Entertainment is also set to launch a movie channel, “Filmy”, that will showcase films produced by it.

“So far so good, but the problem area continues to be the Sahara One channel that has suffered because of absence of intelligent positioning and improper distribution,” said a media analyst.

Sahara One insiders say they hope Subroto Roy’s friendship with Anil Ambani will see the deal through.

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