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|March 7, 2000
Kerry Packer spreads his wings over India, buys 10 pc of Himachal Futuristic
Our Correspondent in New Delhi
Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited today issued ten per cent fresh equity to Australia's Consolidated Press Holdings group of companies, run by well-known media tycoon Kerry Packer (of Channel9 fame), besides setting up two joint ventures with CPH, marking the company's foray into information technology and e-commerce businesses.
CPH will invest Rs 10.39 billion ($ 238 million) to pick up 7.165 million fresh shares in HFCL, its group chairman Mahendra Nahata and James Packer, son of the tycoon who is the joint chief executive officer of CPH, told newspersons in New Delhi today.
This is Kerry Packer's second major foray into India. Channel9 has a strategic tie-up with India's national broadcast corporation Prasar Bharati for cricket telecasts.
(Rupert Murdoch, another Australian(-born) media tycoon, has major interests in India in the form of STAR television network.)
"With globalisation and with technology revolution, India is uniquely placed to do extraordinarily well over the next decade," Packer said. "This is the largest foreign investment being made by any company in India in the telecom sector," a joint statement said.
HFCL will hold 51 per cent stake, while 30 per cent would be controlled by CPH and the balance 19 per cent will be given to other strategic investors in both the joint ventures. The strategic investors are yet to be identified, Nahata said.
The first JV company will focus on software services, including animation software, software product development, IT-enabled services and embedded systems.
''HFCL's core strength in telecom and CPH's relationship with leading technology companies and its own large requirements of software is expected to bring sizeable business opportunities to this joint venture," Nahata added.
The second venture, to focus on business-to-business or B2B e-commerce, will be investing in creating and developing network infrastructure all across the country, including establishing payment gateways to support data and e-commerce services.
''This network will be content-rich, providing specialised solutions and services for specific business areas,'' Nahata said.
The joint venture expects to capitalise the growing B2B e-commerce in India.
The two joint ventures will have a total outlay of Rs 1 billion each, serviced through debt and equity.
HFCL`s shares rose nearly 8 per cent on the Bombay Stock Exchange following news of the strategic alliance with CPH. The share closed at Rs 2,415, up by Rs 174. It touched the day`s high of Rs 2,420.
CPH controls 40 per cent in Australia`s Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd or PBL which, in turn, has an 80 per cent stake in online group Ecorp Limited. PBL runs Australia`s popular Channel9 television.
Ecorp operates the 50:50 Nine Msn joint venture between PBL and Microsoft Corporation. It also has other joint ventures with Internet auction firm eBay and Internet stockbroking firm Charles Schwab Corporation.
HFCL is seeking to be debt-free by May 2000. Its current debt is estimated at Rs 3.5 billion. The company recently completed a private placement of shares to raise Rs 7.35 billion at Rs 1,050 a share.
Additional inputs: UNI
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