Paramount Global Sells Viacom18 Stake to Reliance Industries for $517 Million

Paramount Global will sell its 13% equity stake in India’s Viacom18 to majority shareholder Reliance Industries for $517 million.

The closing of the transaction is subject to the “satisfaction of certain customary conditions, including receipt of applicable regulatory approvals,” as well as the completion of a previously announced joint venture involving Reliance, Viacom18 and Disney’s Star, according to an 8K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

After the closing of the transaction, Reliance’s equity stake in Viacom18 will increase to 70.49%. Paramount will continue to license its content to the joint venture.

The move provides a fresh infusion of cash to the media conglomerate, which is led by CEO Bob Bakish and owned by Shari Redstone’s National Amusements.

It also comes amidst speculation that Paramount could become an M&A target, with potential suitors including Skydance Media, Byron Allen and Apollo Global Management expressing interest in its portfolio of assets. Those include Paramount Pictures, Paramount+, CBS and networks such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

Paramount’s latest non-core asset sale comes after it previously divested publisher Simon & Schuster, mixed martial arts promoter Bellator and some real estate properties.

Bakish has said Paramount would prioritize driving earnings growth in 2024 through efforts including cutting back on international, local original content, leveraging content licensing and workforce reductions. Last month, the company said it would lay off up to 800 staffers.

The company anticipates approximately $1 billion in programming and restructuring charges in the first quarter of 2024, with roughly $200 million related to the restructuring.

Viacom18, which is also owned by Bodhi Tree Systems, oversees the streaming platform JioCinema and offers 38 television channels across general entertainment, movies, sports, youth, music and kids programming.

Under Reliance’s new $8.5 billion pact with Disney, the combined entity will add Hotstar and entertainment and sports assets Colors, StarPlus, StarGOLD, Star Sports and Sports 18. It will also have exclusive rights to distribute Disney films and productions in India, with a license to more than 30,000 content assets.

The joint venture will cater to over 750 million viewers across India and the Indian diaspora across the world. Disney will hold a 37% stake in the company, while Reliance and Viacom18 will hold a combined 63% ownership stake.

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