No hefty fund infusion likely

Mumbai, March 22 | Updated: Mar 23 2006, 05:30am hrs
The top six listed media companies have cumulative revenues of only Rs 245 crore and a zero operating profit level. Not the best way to commence an event, on the opening day of the annual Ficci FRAMES-2006, a host of experts were unanimous on the point that the sector is highly unlikely to receive any substantial infusion in private equity money considering their below par performance. While there is recognition that the sector is growing at a healthy 18-20%, The Carlyle Group MD Rajeev Gupta said, The sector is not ready to absorb huge amounts of capital as yet. It is still hugely fragmented. Organisations need to increase size in order to deal with the volatility in the business. They also need to scale up in order to extract economies of scale.

The print media particularly came in for some harsh criticism because of their highly aggressive marketing strategies that are primarily targeting each others' market share. The leading players in the print media are in the game of taking away market share from the incumbents. That's not a strategy designed to create value, Mr Gupta said.

Ambit Corporate Finance MD Ashok Wadhwa added, After companies went to the capital markets to raise money in 2000-01, they have so far been underperformers. This has hurt the credibility of the companies and the blame lies on their underperforming assets.

GW Capital partner Vikram Narula added that the investment restrictions on the sector are also hampering its growth. Private equity in the country today is mostly foreign capital. With the stringent investment restrictions on print media and in radio, theres a problem for foreign investors. Also, most private equity funds are not sector specific. So the media industry competes doe investment with the other sunrise sectors like healthcare, IT/ITeS and telecom and others. As a result, the sector will have to get more professional. Legislation too, needs to be conducive to its growth.

As an alternative to private equity investment, Waygate Capital MD Rajesh Jog proposed the setting up of a content funda fund that could help animation and gaming companies, production houses to create content. Mr Wadhwa also proposed the setting up of film funds, much like real estate funds, in partnership with the industry. Funds like these can be used to finance a film project which costs about Rs 10-15 crore. The realisations can be used to further develop infrastructure and increase efficiencies and encourage more projects. Theres no need for larger investments, he said.