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Zee Entertainment profit surges on gain from sports TV sale to Sony

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Zee Entertainment Enterprises, India's largest listed media company, said fourth-quarter profit jumped almost seven times, helped by a one-time gain from the sale of its sports television business to Japan's Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The consolidated net income for the quarter ended March. 31 was 15.14 billion rupees ($234 million), compared with 2.27 billion rupees a year earlier, Zee, backed by billionaire Subhash Chandra, said Wednesday.

The profit included a gain of 12.23 billion rupees from the sale of sports broadcasting business to Sony and its affiliates in August in a deal that allowed Zee to exit the unprofitable venture. Analysts were expecting a profit of 3.17 billion rupees in the quarter.

Total revenue remained little changed at 15.28 billion rupees after the loss of revenue from the sports broadcasting, it said.

Zee's advertising revenues, which account for more than half the total sales, also remained little changed at 8.47 billion rupees as the company struggled with a slowdown in ad spending in overseas markets. Subscription revenues declined 6.1% to 5.58 billion rupees after the sale of sports business.

Still, domestic advertisement revenue grew 8.1% despite the impact of New Delhi's high-value currency ban in November that crimped consumer demand. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government abruptly recalled high-value notes that accounted for 86% of the currency in circulation in a bid to crack down on corruption and unaccounted wealth. The ban caused a sharp deceleration in consumption, prompting many companies to cut down their advertisement expenses.

Punit Goenka, managing director and chief executive of Zee, said the company is facing "a difficult economic environment." Goenka said he expects the introduction of a new Goods and Services Tax that replaces a host of state levies later this year to boost advertising spends.

Zee Group plans to boost its viewership five times to become one of the top global players by 2020. The broadcaster is targeting Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East where it is rolling out several new channels that will help the company boost its viewership from its current 1 billion.

Shares of the company gained 3.98% in Mumbai trading, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex rose 1.05%.

--Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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