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India’s Times Group linked with Neo Sports, TV9

Media speculation in India has put media conglomerate Bennett, Coleman and Co Ltd (BCCL) - more usually known as the Times Group – in the running to buy a majority holding in the two sports channels operated by Nimbus Communications.

Nimbus is the main shareholder of Neo Sports Broadcast Ltd, which runs the two channels Neo Sports and Neo Cricket, recently in the news following the early termination by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) of its contract to televise the Indian cricket team's matches.

Other shareholders include financial institutions and investors such as 3i. Two investment banks, Barclays Capital and Avendus, have been authorised by Neo to find a partner, according to Business Standard.

The newspaper also reports that the Times Group has also shown preliminary interest in buying Associated Broadcasting Company Ltd (ABCL), which owns several regional language channels under the TV9 brand.

Times Group and BCCL have said they will not comment on specific speculation. However, Sunil Lulla, chief executive and managing director of Times Global Broadcasting, is quoted as saying in Business Standard: "We have grown and consolidated our TV operations. Now we will add new offerings in the next 12-24 months."

Neo Sports Broadcast currently reaches 34 countries and has over 1,200 advertisers. The company posted revenues of approximately INR 425 crore, Ebitda of INR 15 crore, but a net loss of around INR 6 crore in 2010-11, according to Business Standard.

In addition to the former partnership with the BCCI, Neo holds the rights to televise UEFA Euro Cup football matches, French Open tennis, Davis Cup, Asia Cup, MotoGP and golf tournaments. It also has, in partnership with the BCCL division Times Internet, the global internet, mobile, audio and TV rights for Indian Premier League cricket matches in specific territories outside India until 2014.

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