Regret being drawn into the dispute between Zee and Invesco: Reliance

Hours after Invesco dragged into its fight with Enterprises, Mukesh Ambani-led RIL on Wednesday sought to clarify that it “never resorted to any hostile transactions”.

RIL said it regrets being drawn into the dispute between Zee and Invesco and that the reports in the media are not accurate.

“In February/ March 2021, Invesco assisted Reliance in arranging discussions directly between our representatives and Mr Punit Goenka, member of the founder family and Managing Director of Zee. We had made a broad proposal for merger of our media properties with Zee at fair valuations of Zee and all our properties. The valuations of Zee and our properties were arrived at based on the same parameters. The proposal sought to harness the strengths of all the merging entities and would have helped to create substantial value for all, including the shareholders of Zee.

“Reliance always endeavours to continue with the existing management of the investee and reward them for their performance. Accordingly, the proposal included continuation of Mr Goenka as Managing Director and issue of ESOPs to management, including Mr Goenka.

However, differences arose between Mr Goenka and Invesco with respect to a requirement of the founding family for increasing their stake by subscribing to preferential warrants. The investors seemed to be of the view that the founders could always increase their stake through market purchases. At Reliance, we respect all founders and have never resorted to any hostile transactions. So, we did not proceed further,” the oil-to-telecom conglomerate said in a statement.

Invesco said, earlier on Wednesday, that it facilitated talks between and earlier this year on a possible tie-up, revealing for the first time that India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, was interested in the television giant.

But the US investment firm rejected allegations from Zee that it was resorting to double standards by objecting to a potential merger with Sony Group’s India unit with terms similar to those discussed with Reliance.

Invesco’s response is the latest in a growing public spat where the US investor, which owns 18% of Zee, is calling for a revamp of Zee’s board and the removal of CEO Punit Goenka over alleged corporate governance lapses.

Zee said on Tuesday that the opposition by Invesco to the proposed Sony deal “runs contrary to the very deal Invesco was proposing” with Reliance and that the US firm’s demands were not motivated by concerns around corporate governance or the company’s business.

Zee has accused Invesco of plotting a hostile takeover of the company, dismissed requests to call a shareholder meeting to vote on the US investor’s demands and said it has tightened its processes. The two sides are now locked in a bitter legal and public tussle where they are lashing out at each other almost daily.

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