In a significant development, Reliance Industries Ltd., under the stewardship of Asia’s wealthiest tycoon, Mukesh Ambani, is edging closer to a substantial cash and stock transaction to acquire Walt Disney Co.’s operations in India. According to insiders familiar with the matter, the U.S. entertainment giant is considering selling a controlling stake in the Disney Star business, which it values at approximately $10 billion. This marks a departure from earlier considerations of piecemeal transactions. On the other hand, Reliance evaluates the assets to be worth between $7 billion to $8 billion, as reported by certain sources.
The formal announcement of this acquisition could be made as early as next month. Under the proposed deal, some of Reliance’s media units are expected to merge into Disney Star, although precise details remain undisclosed.
Disney is likely to retain a minority stake in the Indian company even after the cash and stock swap transaction is completed, as per individuals with knowledge of the situation. However, it’s important to note that no final decision has been reached on the deal or its valuation. Disney may choose to retain ownership of these assets for a longer period.
Spokespersons for Disney in India and Reliance declined to offer official comments on this matter.
This potential deal reflects Mukesh Ambani’s significant influence on India’s entertainment sector, which has been underscored by his acquisition of streaming rights to the Indian Premier League for $2.7 billion in 2022. This strategic move by his company, JioCinema, allowed the free broadcast of the immensely popular domestic cricket tournament earlier this year.
In another coup, Reliance secured a multi-year agreement to broadcast HBO shows from Warner Bros Discovery Inc. in India, content that was previously under Disney’s purview.
Despite facing challenges such as declining subscriber numbers, Disney Star continues to be a formidable player in the Indian streaming platform landscape. In a recent statement, the company announced that its India streaming platform attracted a record 43 million viewers during the men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and New Zealand, surpassing the viewership of the highly anticipated India-Pakistan match earlier in the year.
This pending acquisition signifies the ever-evolving landscape of India’s media and entertainment industry, with Reliance poised to make a significant mark through this potential partnership with Disney.