Sony scraps $10 billion India merger talks with Zee Entertainment

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – After two years of negotiations, Japan’s Sony on Monday terminated a $10 billion merger of their India operations with Zee Entertainment.

Here is a timeline of some key moments in the negotiations:

September 22, 2021 – Zee Entertainment enters into merger talks with Sony. The company’s current CEO Punit Goenka was slated to become the CEO and managing director of the new entity.

December 22, 2021 – Sony and Zee sign definitive agreements to form a merged entity.

August 31, 2022 – India’s antitrust watchdog Competition Commission of India raises concerns over the merger. It flags the combined entity will have a “humongous market position” that would allow them to enjoy “unparalleled bargaining power” with 92 channels in India’s massive media and entertainment market.

October 4, 2022 – India’s competition regulator approves the merger. The companies had offered concessions such as pricing discounts to help ease the regulator’s concerns over the deal.

June 12, 2023 – India’s markets regulator bars Zee CEO Goenka from the boardrooms of four Zee Group companies including Zee Entertainment for a year.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) says Goenka was actively involved in diverting company funds to the group’s related entities. Goenka denies any wrongdoing.

June 21, 2023 – Sony says it is taking the SEBI order “very seriously” and “will continue to monitor developments that may affect the deal”.

October 30, 2023 – An Indian tribunal lifts a ban on Goenka from holding board positions but says he would have to cooperate with any investigation by the regulator.

December 17, 2023 – Zee says it had sought a further extension on the merger deadline from Sony.

January 9, 2024 – Zee says it was committed to the merger with Sony and is seeking to discuss an extension to a Jan. 20 deadline to close the deal.

January 22, 2024 – Sony says it has terminated the merger as they could not agree on some deal conditions, and has also sought $90 million in termination fees from Zee Entertainment. The Indian broadcaster says it will take legal action against the Japanese media company.

(Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar in New Delhi; editing by Miral Fahmy)