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Sony Group Abandons $10 Billion Merger with Zee Entertainment in India

Tokyo, January 22, 2024, The Europe Today: Japan’s Sony Group announced on Monday the termination of its $10 billion merger plans with Zee Entertainment, marking the end of a potential alliance that could have formed one of India’s largest TV broadcasters.

The collapse of the deal introduces heightened uncertainty for Zee Entertainment, given the escalating competition in the content-driven Indian market. Notably, Disney is also in the race, exploring a merger of its Indian businesses with the media assets of Reliance Industries, led by billionaire Mukesh Ambani.

Zee Entertainment disclosed to Indian stock exchanges that Sony was seeking $90 million in termination fees, citing alleged breaches of their merger agreement and invoking arbitration for emergency interim relief. Zee, vehemently denying Sony’s claims, expressed its intent to take appropriate legal action.

In response, Sony stated that certain “closing conditions” necessary for the merger were not met, despite sincere discussions with Zee. The inability to reach an agreement on an extension before the January 21 deadline further contributed to the deal’s demise.

Expressing disappointment, Sony affirmed its commitment to expanding its presence in the dynamic and rapidly growing Indian market, where negotiations had spanned over two years.

While the specific unmet conditions were not disclosed by either party, a pivotal point of contention was the leadership structure of the merged entity. Zee had proposed CEO Punit Goenka to lead, but Sony hesitated following an investigation by India’s market regulator. On Monday, Zee stated that Goenka had been willing to step down in the interest of the merger, but a source with direct knowledge revealed that Sony was insistent on his withdrawal before the deal’s closure, leading to a deadlock.