MUMBAI: Who really owns NDTV?
The million dollar question resurfaced with markets regulator SEBI ordering a little known entity called Vishvapradhan Commercial Private Limited (VCPL) to make an open offer, while NDTV promoters stuck their necks out denying transfer of shares and reaffirming their ownership in the Delhi-based television network.
Following the SEBI order, shares of NDTV shot up 20 per cent, or a near nine-year high, to hit its upper circuit limit at Rs 39 on BSE Wednesday.
On Tuesday, SEBI ordered VCPL to make an open offer for NDTV Ltd for indirectly acquiring control of up to 52 per cent stake through a convertible loan of Rs 350 crore in 2009. The order follows a probe into alleged violation of takeover norms by VCPL, with regard to a loan with a 10-year tenure ending July 2019, and various clauses in it giving the firm control of up to 52 per cent of the media firm, SEBI said.
NDTV on Wednesday denied the allegations and reiterated that its promoters Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy hold 61.45 per cent stake. “At no point has control of NDTV’s editorial policies or its business plans been directly or indirectly yielded to a third party. No shares have ever been transferred by the promoters to anyone else,” it said.
“VCPL, the company that gave the loan to the promoters, has never been represented by even one director on NDTV’s board. NDTV has never ceded even an iota of editorial rights to anyone outside the company,” it noted, adding, “The promoters reserve the right to contest any finding or verdict that suggests otherwise.”
While ordering the open offer — for buying up to 26 per cent shares in NDTV from public shareholders as per SEBI rules — SEBI observed that VCPL had, in a letter dated March 25, 2016, stated that the “source for the loan was the borrowing from Reliance Strategic Investment Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited”.
VCPL is believed to have later changed hands from Reliance Industries Limited to Nahara Group, from which the Mukesh Ambani-led firm bought Infotel Broadband to re-enter the telecom business.
It may be noted that in 2008, an open offer was made by the Promoters of NDTV — RRPR Holding Pvt Ltd — to avail Rs 540 crore loan from Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd. To repay the said loan, another loan of Rs 375 crore was taken from ICICI Bank, which was repaid in 2009 by taking another loan of Rs 350 crore from VCPL in 2009.