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Walt Disney increases its strategic stake in Indian UTV

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Walt Disney Company's Asian subsidiary The Walt Disney Company (Southeast Asia) Pte. Ltd. has increased its strategic investment in UTV, India's only integrated media and entertainment company with content creation abilities across platforms and genres. With this investment, Disney will be increasing its stake in UTV to 32.1%, worth approximately $200 million. Ronnie Screwvala, who founded UTV in 1991, and his partners will also increase their combined shareholding in UTV to 32.1% through the issue of warrants.

Disney's investment further establishes its entry into the Indian market through UTV and complements its fast-growing Disney-branded businesses and long-held joint-venture in ESPN STAR Sports. In 2006, Disney acquired Hungama TV, a leading Indian children's television channel, and took an initial equity interest in UTV.


Concurrently with its UTV investment, Disney will invest approximately $30 million for a 15% stake in UTV Global Broadcasting Limited ("UGBL"). UGBL, through its subsidiaries, has launched two youth entertainment channels under the Bindass brand and The World Movie channel, and is about to launch UTV Hindi Movies channel. UTV will also invest $60 million in UGBL for a 75% stake, while the remaining shares will continue to be held by Screwvala and his partners. 

The Walt Disney Company (India) opened in 2004 with its head office located in Mumbai. In less than three years, it established a strong foothold in this diverse and highly dynamic market. Disney India employs around 185 permanent staff, and anticipates accelerated growth across Media Networks, Consumer Products, and Studio businesses.

Outside of the US, India is the largest market Disney has invested in for local production. Disney Channel and Jetix have over 6000 episodes of trans-created content (3 local languages included). Disney Channel India has close to 25% local content on-air today. Disney Channel and Toon Disney have a current reach of over 49 million homes. In 2006-07, the channels won 21 awards including Disney Channel's win as Best Children's Channel (second year in a row) at the Indian Television Academy awards, which is based on audience polls. Through the terrestrial network, Disney Channel reaches over 122 million homes.

Walt Disney Internet Group has made available a wide variety of Disney-branded mobile entertainment via the country's top carriers, reaching more than 84 million mobile phone subscribers and representing more than 60 percent of India's mobile market and 85 percent of the data market. WDIG also provides games with local flavor e.g. Disney Cricket, Mickey Mouse Rickshaw Rush, and other games which are tailor-made content for Indian tastes.

In 2007, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (India) announced a historic collaboration with Bollywood's leading studio - Yash Raj Studios to make animated films created by and for Indians. The first film with Yash Raj, to be released in summer this year is entitled "Roadside Romeo," which features the voices of leading Bollywood stars. The popularity of Disney content among Indian families can also be gauged by the successes of The Lion King, Narnia, Incredibles and Pirates of the Caribbean 2 as the highest selling DVDs of all time in India.

In the last two years, Disney Consumer Products has more than doubled the number of licensee relationships and established new retail relationships which are delivering consumers a broad range of products. DCP is showing significant momentum as it focuses on broadening its geographic reach by expanding product reach beyond key cities through existing licensees, focusing on 'direct to retail' relationships, and developing innovative specialty stores and special 'Disney Corners'.