Reliance Industries in Advanced Talks to Acquire Disney’s India Operations

Reliance Industries, helmed by Asia’s wealthiest tycoon, Mukesh Ambani, is reportedly closing in on a significant cash and stock deal to acquire Walt Disney’s India operations. This deal, said to be in advanced stages, marks a strategic move in the ongoing transformation of India’s entertainment industry.

According to insiders familiar with the matter, the US entertainment giant is considering selling a controlling stake in the Disney Star business, valued at approximately $10 billion. This contrasts with earlier contemplations of piecemeal transactions. On the other hand, Reliance assesses the assets to be worth between $7 billion to $8 billion, creating a valuation gap that will likely be a focus of negotiation.

The acquisition, if it goes through, could be formally announced as early as next month, with additional reports indicating that some of Reliance’s media units may be integrated into Disney Star. However, specific details of this potential merger remain undisclosed.

Crucially, Disney is expected to maintain a minority stake in the Indian company post-transaction. It’s worth noting that no final decision has been made regarding the deal or its valuation. Disney still has the option to retain the assets for a longer duration.

Reliance Industries, when questioned about the deal, maintained that it continually evaluates opportunities and will disclose relevant information as needed. In contrast, Disney’s India representatives refrained from commenting on the matter.

These ongoing talks epitomize Mukesh Ambani’s continued disruption of India’s entertainment industry. His notable moves include securing the streaming rights for the Indian Premier League for $2.7 billion in 2022 and offering the matches for free on the JioCinema platform. Furthermore, Reliance clinched a multi-year agreement to broadcast Warner Bros. Discovery’s HBO shows in India, content that was formerly under Disney’s purview.

Disney Star has faced challenges, with declining subscriber numbers, but it has not relinquished its position in the Indian market and has been exploring various options, including an outright sale or a potential joint venture.

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Despite these challenges, Disney’s India streaming platform managed to attract a record 43 million viewers during a recent Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and New Zealand, outpacing the viewership of the highly anticipated India-Pakistan match held earlier this month.

The potential acquisition of Disney’s India operations by Reliance Industries signals a significant move in the ever-evolving landscape of India’s entertainment industry, with implications for both companies and the broader market.

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