Paramount Global Sells Viacom18 Stake to Reliance for $517 Million

Paramount Global has sold its 13% ownership stake in Indian TV and streaming company Viacom18 to Reliance Industries for $517 million. Reliance was already the majority owner of Viacom18.

The pact comes two weeks after Disney and Reliance Industries announced a blockbuster $8.5 billion deal merging their massive Indian TV and streaming businesses. As part of that agreement, Reliance’s Viacom18 is merging with Disney’s Star India.

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On March 13, Paramount Global entered an agreement with Reliance Industries to sell Paramount’s entire 13.01% equity interest in Viacom18 for the equivalent to approximately $517 million based on the current foreign exchange rate, according to a filing with the SEC on Wednesday.

Bodhi Tree, a company controlled by former Disney India chair Uday Shankar and James Murdoch, owns 15.97% of Viacom18.

Viacom18 calls itself “one of India’s fastest growing entertainment networks.” The business includes a portfolio of 38 channels across general entertainment, movies, sports, youth, music and kids genres. JioCinema, Viacom18’s streaming platform, is among India’s top streaming services, while Viacom18 Studios has produced and distributed Hindi films and regional films for more than 13 years in India.

For Paramount Global, the sale of its interest in Viacom18 is part of its efforts to bolster its balance sheet. The media company ended 2023 with long-term debt of $14.6 billion, down from $15.6 billion a year prior. In August 2023, Paramount Global announced a deal to sell the Simon & Schuster publishing business to investment giant KKR for $1.62 billion in cash. “[W]e’re highly focused on continuing to reduce balance sheet leverage,” Paramount Global CFO Naveen Chopra said on the company’s Feb. 28 earnings call.

The closing of Paramount Global’s sale of the Viacom18 stake is subject to certain customary conditions, including receipt of applicable regulatory approvals, as well as the completion of the previously announced joint venture involving Reliance, Viacom18 and Star Disney. After the closing, Paramount will continue to license its content to Viacom18, according to the filing.

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