The Times of India group (TIML Golden Square, a wholly owned subsidiary of Times group) has made its first ever foray into the overseas media space by acquiring the Virgin Radio Holdings Ltd and its subsidiaries in the UK, for a phenomenal �53.2 million from SMG Plc.
With this acquisition, TIML will obtain the lucrative AM national licence, FM London licence and DAB national licence. TIML will manage the station along with Absolute Radio, the European group that already owns the music station Jack FM in Oxford.
The deal comes without the Virgin brand which will go back to Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. TIML will undertake a �15 million rebranding exercise. However, RadioToday.co.uk understands TIML Golden Square Ltd have the option of continuing to use the Virgin Radio name in the UK, for a licence cost of a further �8million. TIML has 90 days from the completion of the sale to rebrand.
Mr. A P Parigi, managing director & CEO of TIML says: “Now is a great period to be entering the UK market and the opportunity to acquire a valuable radio asset couldn’t have come at a better time. We have worked with ARI for many years now and their experience and expertise, coupled with that of the award winning staff at Golden Square, will deliver our collective vision of a powerful and exciting new brand that will engage all key stakeholders.”
The acquisition is not being made by ENIL, a listed company promoted by Bennett Coleman & Co. that operates Radio Mirchi. “The reason could be that Virgin Radio operates in a matured market. The promoters of Bennett Coleman would rather fund the acquisition and create more value to that business. They may not have wanted to put ENIL under funding pressure,” says a market analyst to IndianTelevision who is closely tracking the development.
It is also understood that Virgin Group, which owns Virgin Radio in countries throughout Europe and Asia, is keen to reclaim the Virgin Radio brand and launch a British station, possibly on DAB. It is understood that Virgin Group would look to relaunch Virgin Radio with a partner.
Excerpts from Times Online, Indian Television and Radio Today