Hollywood tieups to boost Bollywood stocks: WSJ

July 1st, 2008 - 9:34 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, July 1 (IANS) A recent string of joint ventures and investments cementing ties between Bollywood and Hollywood might turn Indian entertainment shares Adlabs Films and UTV Software Communications into blockbusters, the Wall Street Journal has said. Although Viacom has started a joint venture in India to do television and films and Sony Pictures Entertainment released its first Hindi film “Saawariya” this year, the biggest joint projects are coming from Indian emerging media powers UTV and the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani (ADA) Group, which aim to become global media giants.

Reliance ADA’s deal to invest over $500 million to help build a company with Steven Spielberg would help Adlabs, its main listed media unit, the Journal said quoting analysts.

UTV, which is building a media empire encompassing movies, television and the Internet with 32 percent ownership by Walt Disney Co, is already producing films in Hollywood. It coproduced the recent M. Night Shyamalan’s fairly successful horror flick “The Happening.”

These Indian groups stand to profit more than investors in Hollywood because they can use the US connections to make more money in India’s booming media market, the Journal said. With Indian incomes climbing, receipts from the domestic movie industry are rising at a happy 15 percent a year compared with the US, where the growth rate is under 5 percent recently.

Indians’ Hollywood tie-ups are driven by the opportunity to better learn the ropes, to be able to get access to the latest technology and to be able to get scale, said Farokh Balsara, who overseas the media and entertainment industries for Ernst & Young.

The growth in Indian market is marshalled by smarter distribution. Bollywood producers use DVDs, cable television, the Internet and even mobile phones to reach moviegoers to generate more money out of each film.

Yet, Bollywood can learn much from Hollywood about different, smart ways to distribute and generate interest in movies using various platforms. India makes 1,000-odd movies a year and earns a revenue of $3 billion while Hollywood makes just 600-odd movies, earning revenue in excess of $80 billion.

As India’s middle class is thronging the multiplexes mushrooming across the country, Dipti Solanki, media analyst at brokerage firm Pioneer Intermediaries, expects UTV shares to rise. She has a 12-month target of Rs 871 ($20.36). UTV’s stock gained Rs 4 Monday to sell at Rs 759.75. For the last quarter ended March 31, profit at UTV rose 77 percent from a year earlier to Rs 188 million ($4.4 million).

Reliance ADA, through its unlisted media company Reliance Big Entertainment, has announced ties with eight US production houses including those connected to Jim Carrey, George Clooney and Tom Hanks. It will use Adlabs’ international network of movie screens to distribute the Hollywood films and use its new partners in the US to distribute Indian films produced by Adlabs and other group companies to a wider audience.

Reliance ADA aims to become a global media giant, said Vikas Mantri, an analyst at ICICI Securities. “When that is the opportunity you are looking at, then naturally you would like to be in Hollywood as well,” he said.

Shares of Adlabs, which is into diverse activities from film processing to production and multiplex management, have seen many ups and downs along with the rest of the volatile Indian stock market in the past one year. They nearly tripled in the second half of 2007 buoyed by Reliance’s big plans for the company and then plunged this year as enthusiasm about India waned. They have tumbled 68 percent for the year and stood at Rs 440.05 Monday.

The Journal said market analysts expect Reliance Big Entertainment to list the company and issue initial public offering (IPO) in the next 12 months. The company, which is 3 percent owned by a George Soros fund, hasn’t started the listing process but has shown interest in doing an IPO.

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