The takeover of the news network has sparked fears that one of the country’s last bastions of free press is under threat.
Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate has increased its stake in New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) to more than 37 percent through a public offer, making it the largest shareholder in one of the country’s most popular news networks.
While Adani’s group, which increased its stake on Monday, was seeking an additional 26 percent stake in NDTV, the open offer attracted bids for just 5.3 million shares, which translated to an 8.3 percent stake in the company.
Last week, Adani acquired an approximate 29.2 percent stake in NDTV by purchasing a company backed by the television network’s founders, Radhika Roy and Prannoy Roy, who own a 32.3 percent stake in NDTV.
The takeover of NDTV by the port-to-energy conglomerate has sparked fears among some journalists that one of the country’s last bastions of free media is under threat.
Shortly after Adani’s takeover of NDTV’s founder, Ravish Kumar, a senior executive editor of NDTV, resigned.
However, Adani has said he sees the acquisition of NDTV as a “responsibility” rather than a business opportunity, adding that he has invited Prannoy Roy to remain chairman when the acquisition is completed.
In the open offer that closed Monday, corporate investors offered 3.9 million shares, while retail investors offered to sell more than 706,000 shares. It was not immediately clear who the participants were.
Adani had offered to buy NDTV shares for 294 rupees in the open offer, representing a 25 percent discount to Monday’s closing price.
While a fully successful open bid would have meant Adani would have owned a majority stake in NDTV, the 37.4 percent stake still makes him the largest shareholder, said Shriram Subramanian, managing director of Bengaluru-based InGovern Research Services, a corporate governance consultancy. .
“With the resulting shareholding, she [Adani] can still gain control of the board by reconstituting it. They can propose their own set of drivers and remove current drivers,” Subramanian said.
Adani had unveiled plans to acquire a majority stake in NDTV in late August, but was met with stiff opposition from the news network which said the billionaire’s bid had been made without the consent of NDTV’s founders.
After unsuccessfully trying to block the acquisition, citing legal restrictions on moving shares, the entity, backed by the founders of NDTV, transferred their entire shareholding to Adani last week.