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Reliance and Disney Advance Indian Merger with Antitrust Due Diligence

 |  January 4, 2024
Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and global entertainment giant Walt Disney have taken a crucial step towards their proposed media and entertainment merger. Sources familiar with the matter reveal that both companies have enlisted the services of prominent law firms to conduct antitrust due diligence for the merger, underscoring the seriousness of their intent.

Reliance Industries has engaged the services of Khaitan & Co and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, two leading Indian law firms, while Walt Disney has enlisted AZB & Partners, according to informed insiders, reported Reuters. These legal appointments signify a crucial phase in the potential merger, which aims to create an entertainment powerhouse in India, where both companies boast major streaming services and a combined total of 120 television channels.

The latest developments reveal that senior executives from both companies convened in London in late December, signing a non-binding term sheet for the deal. While Reliance remained tight-lipped, dismissing the news as “speculative,” Disney chose not to comment on the matter. Similarly, the appointed law firms, Khaitan, Shardul, and AZB, have refrained from making any official statements.

Read more: Comcast Looks To Sell Hulu To Disney Next Year

Experts suggest that a merger of this scale and nature is likely to face antitrust challenges and meticulous scrutiny. To alleviate concerns over market dominance, assets such as TV channels may need to be divested. The ongoing antitrust review is reported to be in its initial stages, with insiders affirming that both companies are navigating the complexities involved in the process.

This potential merger would be the second major consolidation in India’s media and entertainment landscape, following Japan’s Sony announcing plans to merge its Indian business with Zee Entertainment. The competition in the Indian market has intensified, particularly in the streaming sector, where Reliance’s JioCinema app holds the digital rights for the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, once owned by Disney in India.

Antitrust experts have pointed out that a Disney-Reliance merger would likely face scrutiny over their streaming businesses and their influence on advertising during cricket events, especially considering Disney Hotstar’s rights to International Cricket Council matches in India until 2027.

Source: Reuters