November 28, 2019 / 8:18 AM / 10 days ago

Reliance denies report of talks to sell news assets to Times Group

MUMBAI (Reuters) - India’s Reliance Industries Ltd, controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, on Thursday denied a Bloomberg report that it was in talks to sell its news assets to local media conglomerate Times Group.

FILE PHOTO: A bird flies past a Reliance Industries logo installed on its mart in Ahmedabad, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, reported here earlier on Thursday that Bennett Coleman & Co, also known as the Times Group, was looking to hire advisers to run due diligence on the news properties of Reliance's Network 18 Media and Investments Ltd.

A spokeswoman for the Times Group, which publishes The Times of India newspaper and owns news channels and websites, declined to comment.

A Reliance spokesman told Reuters via email the Bloomberg story was “baseless and false.”

The same spokesman had earlier told Reuters that Reliance would not comment on speculations. “Our company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis,” he had said.

Reliance’s Network 18 runs a range of news properties including News18, CNBCTV18.com, MoneyControl and Firstpost, and operates entertainment TV channels such as Colors, MTV India, VH1 and Comedy Central India.

Network 18 shares initially rose more than 10% on Thursday, but settled 2.9% higher at close.

Shares in Reliance, an oil-to-telecoms conglomerate and India’s most valuable company, ended 0.7% higher.

Bloomberg had also reported last week that Reliance was in talks with Japan’s Sony Corp for a stake sale in Network 18 Media and Investments Ltd.

The reports come amid expectations that India’s lucrative-but-crowded TV market is set for a period of rapid growth. Statista, a statistics portal, estimates the local TV industry will expand over 50% in the next three years.

Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Toby Chopra

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