Sony, Zee merger back on track
November 1, 2023
By Chris Forrester
A major impediment to the closing of the long-awaited merger between Zee Entertainment and Sony’s Indian channel business has been removed.
Indian regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which had – in effect – banned Punit Goenka, the current MD/CEO at Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) has been lifted after an appeal. Goenka can now go ahead, as planned by the two combining businesses, as MD of the merged companies.
Back in June, SEBI had barred Goenka and ZEEL chairman Subhash Chandra from holding management positions in any listed business while the regulator carried out investigations into allegations of insider trading. Goenka appealed the order with India’s Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT).
SAT, in a statement, said: “The impugned order cannot be sustained and is quashed insofar as it relates to the appellant (Goenka). The restraint order passed by the respondent pursuant to the ad interim order and the confirmatory order restraining the appellant from functioning as a managing director is set aside. The appeal is allowed. The appellant shall, however, cooperate in the investigation. In the event any material comes out against the appellant during the investigation, then the appropriate procedure can be adopted by SEBI in accordance with the law.”
However, SEBI can further appeal the SAT decision.
The merger has been in the works since 2021 when ZEEL and Sony Pictures Networks India (now named Culver Max Entertainment) signed an agreement to merge the two entities and with Goenka to lead the merged entity as MD/CEO. The merger will create a $10 billion business.