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Fight with Invesco is to preserve company, CEO of India's Zee says

10/14/2021 | 06:31am

MUMBAI, Oct 14 (Reuters) - The chief of India's Zee said on Thursday that the TV network's fight with top shareholder Invesco is to preserve the company's future and ensure that it emerges as a more formidable player in the country's media industry.

Invesco holds nearly 18% of Zee Entertainment Enterprises' shares via two funds and is pushing for an overhaul of top management and the board of directors ahead of its planned merger with the local unit of Japan's Sony Group Corp.

Invesco has objected to some terms of the Sony deal that give Zee's founding family, including Goenka, an option to increase their stake to 20% in the merged company from their current 4% in Zee.

Invesco has called the manner in which the Zee founders' stake in the new company would be raised "opaque" and said it would disadvantage other shareholders.

The two parties are locked in a bitter legal tussle and have been lashing out at each other almost daily.

"We will ensure that no one maligns the intrinsic value of this company for their own benefit, and I continue to pursue this in the best interests of all our shareholders," Zee CEO Punit Goenka said, making his first public statement in the dispute with Invesco.

On Wednesday, Invesco said it had facilitated talks between India's Reliance Industries and Zee earlier this year for a possible merger.

But it also dismissed Zee's claims that its opposition to the current Sony deal "runs contrary to the very deal Invesco was proposing".

Zee's founder and Goenka's father Subhash Chandra has accused Invesco of plotting a hostile takeover and the media company has said that the U.S. firm's demands were not motivated by concerns about corporate governance or business.

On Thursday, Goenka said he did not agree to the deal with Reliance as shareholder value would be compromised.

"My attention was on the imbalance observed in the valuation and how it was not in the best interest of our shareholders," he said.

Invesco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It has previously said it would not pursue a deal that would be bad for shareholders. (Reporting by Nupur Anand in Mumbai and Sankalp Phartiyal in New Delhi; editing by Jason Neely)

© Reuters 2021
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