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Disney and India’s Reliance agree merger

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s Reliance Industries has signed a “binding pact” for a merger deal with Walt Disney’s local unit, Bloomberg News reported yesterday, a major shakeup for the country’s multi-billion dollar entertainment industry.

India’s entertainment market is already one of the world’s biggest, with the expected merger set to create a vast and powerful entertainment giant.

The report of the deal comes as billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani, chairman of oil-to-telecoms giant Reliance Industries, readies to host Disney chief Robert Iger on March 1 for his son’s wedding in India’s western Gujarat state.

Bloomberg said the deal is expected to see the media unit of Reliance and its affiliates hold at least a 61-per-cent stake in the merged entity, with Disney holding the rest.

Disney has been under significant pressure ever since Iger left the company only to be brought out of semi-retirement more than a year ago when his successor underperformed.

Ambani, 66, is the world’s 10th-richest person according to the Forbes real-time billionaires list.

He has invited a guest list of powerful businessmen and politicians to celebrate the wedding of his son Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, the daughter of an industrialist, from March 1-3.

Last month a proposed USD10 billion merger between India’s Zee Entertainment and the local unit of Japanese giant Sony was called off, reportedly because of disagreements over who would lead the new entity.

File photo shows Walt Disney World in Florida, United States. PHOTO: AP