Disney India-Reliance Industries Merger Nears Binding Agreement

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Reliance Industries and Disney India are set to sign a binding agreement to merge their assets, according to local reports.

The deal, which has been gestating for the past two months, could be signed this week and will see Reliance’s Ambani family overseeing a merged operation. The board will be chaired by Nita Ambani, wife of Reliance’s multi-billionaire owner Mukesh Ambani, with former Disney India chief Uday Shankar as vice-chairperson.

Reuters has reported Reliance will have around 51-54% of the business and values Disney’s assets at around $3.5B, much lower than the circa-$16B valuation put on it in 2016. Disney will hold around 40%.

Bodhi Tree, which counts James Murdoch and Shankar as its bosses, will take around 9% in the new merged entity.

The merger will produce a media behemoth in India, with the combination of Reliance’s assets and Disney India, including the Disney+ Hotstar streaming service. Reliance Industries carries a suite of prime media offerings including assets under its Viacom18 group, the fast-growing JioCinema streaming service, a pay-TV platform and over 100 linear TV channels.

Just last year, Reliance beat Disney to win streaming rights to the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL), with Disney taking only pay-TV rights, having previously held all rights. Streaming the IPL under the Jio banner for free, Reliance undercut Disney’s offering, drawing audiences away from the Hotstar platform.

Only in August last year, Nita Ambani quit the board of Reliance Industries to reportedly “focus more on charity work,” as she is currently the founder and chair of the Reliance Foundation.

Deadline has reached out to Reliance and Disney India for comment.

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