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Bloomberg's India Venture With Raghav Bahl's Quint All Set to Collapse

According to Moneycontrol, highly placed sources said that Bahl’s inability to secure a television license despite trying for it since 2016 have rattled Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg.


Updated:December 3, 2019, 4:31 PM IST
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Bloomberg's India Venture With Raghav Bahl's Quint All Set to Collapse
Bloomberg is looking to end its third planned TV stint in India – BloombergQuint.

News and data behemoth Bloomberg LP is all set to end its joint venture with Raghav Bahl’s Quintillion Media, paving the way for a tie-up with other media groups in India, Moneycontrol reported on Tuesday.

The New York-headquartered company is looking to close the chapter of its third planned TV stint in India – BloombergQuint - people familiar with the matter told Moneycontrol. They said the company has already approached other Indian media groups for talks over a possible deal.

According to the report, highly placed sources said that Bahl’s inability to secure a television license despite trying for it since 2016 and allegations of tax evasion and bribery (which have been denied by Bahl) have rattled Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg, who recently joined the US Presidential race hoping to challenge Donald Trump on a Democratic ticket.

This was the company’s third attempt at operating a business TV channel in India, after earlier forays with Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV and later with the Anil Ambani group, failed.

When asked to comment, Bloomberg LLP responded in one line: “Bloomberg remains committed to the India market and to our partnership.’’ Raghav Bahl, on his part, said suggestions of his company’s venture with Bloomberg ending were “falsehoods and wrong assertions”.

“It seems to be at the behest of vested interests who are apparently resentful of the success of BloombergQuint, which has created a strong footprint in the digital space. We are confident that as soon as our broadcast license is approved, we shall replicate that success in the broadcast market and go further. Since the content of your mail lacks credence and is motivated by vested interests, we do not wish to state anything further,” Bahl said in an emailed response to a questionnaire sent by Moneycontrol.

Bahl, one of the pioneers of business TV journalism in India, is the erstwhile promoter of Network18, which runs Moneycontrol and News18.

Bloomberg’s latest attempt at launching an Indian business news channel lies in shambles after more than two years of its soft launch. BloombergQuint started as a digital product three years ago with the aim of launching a 24 hours business channel.

The 26:74 joint venture with Bahl as the majority partner is seeing increased staff attrition and is racking up losses, which has led it to cut costs and reduce markets programming on Facebook and also content around its digital offerings, according to former employees and industry watchers.

The parting of ways between Bloomberg and Bahl’s Quintillion Media is a direct fallout of the Indian entrepreneur’s failed attempts at securing a business broadcast license. Bahl has been rebuffed by the Indian government due to his application’s lack of clarity on many counts, say sources familiar with the situation.

There were also allegations of other irregularities such as tax evasion and bribery charges, according to media reports. These have been vehemently denied by Raghav Bahl in the past. Bahl has recently moved sector’s top court, the TDSAT, to get a direction on his application.

For Bloomberg, there seems to be a jinx in its choice of Indian partners. Meanwhile, Bloomberg LP runs a successful business in India, with its more than 4,000 terminal connections in the country, each fetching it around $2,000 dollars a month and adding up to around Rs 650 crore in annual revenues.

Bloomberg wants a substantial toehold in the Indian television space as the billion-plus aspirational population is perhaps the last bastion of sustained growth. Only 2 percent of India invests in equities compared with 55 percent in the US. But Indian regulations forbid 100% foreign ownership of news entities. They require the local partner to control 51% percent of the venture.

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