Friday, February 8, 2008

First Soros funds NORML now Bollywood, whats next?


Iconic financier George Soros has paid $100 million for a stake in Indian movies, gaming and Internet conglom Reliance Entertainment.

He is picking up a 3% stake in the privately held operation controlled by the billionaire industrialist Anil Dirubhai Ambani's Reliance ADAG. Deal values Reliance Entertainment at some $3.3 billion, making it the most valuable entertainment company in the fast-developing territory.

Reliance Entertainment controls the Adlabs group, which is India's biggest film processor, and in recent years has diversified to become a front-running movie production and theater operation.

Group has been a leading investor in the fast developing FM radio sector, has plunged into Internet services and is on course to become a direct-to-home satellite TV platform operator later this year. It operates Zapak, a gaming portal; Big Adda, a social network and social media venture; Big Flicks, an on- and off-line movie rentals business; and Jump Mobile, a mobile entertainment venture.

New coin is to be used to expand Reliance Entertainment's activities in all these sectors and it is likely to tap other financing, including a possible partial flotation.

"We are delighted to have a sophisticated investor like George Soros as a stakeholder in the company that operates in a high growth and high potential entertainment sector, offering a complete bouquet of innovative products and services to its audience," company spokesman Sharad Goel said.

Adlabs has recently signed up directors including Farhan Akhtar, Madhur Bhandarkar and Vivek Agnihotri for pics under its banner. Reliance Entertainment has also recently bought a controlling stake in ND Studio, one of the largest production studios in India.

Sister company, ADAG Reliance Communications, India's second-largest mobile-phone operator, in November connected with Microsoft Corp. to jointly offer Internet-based television services in India.

Soros, whose currency speculation in 1992 forced the U.K. to devalue the pound and pull out of Europe's Exchange Rate Mechanism, this week warned that the world is facing its most serious recession since WWII. But he described China and India as the "new colonialists," and the territories with the greatest potential for growth in coming years.

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