MUMBAI — Invesco Ltd. said on Wednesday it facilitated talks between India’s Reliance Industries and Zee Entertainment 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.
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 opposition from Invesco to a proposed merger with Sony Group’s India unit “runs contrary to the very deal Invesco was proposing” with Reliance.
Zee has accused Invesco of plotting a hostile takeover of the company, dismissed the requests and says 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.
While the Zee comments on Tuesday did not name which entity Invesco had tried to arrange a deal with, the US firm’s statement revealed for the first time that it was Reliance, the giant conglomerate run by Mukesh Ambani.
“The role of Invesco, as Zee’s single largest shareholder, was to help facilitate that potential transaction and nothing more,” Invesco said.
.”..The implication that we as a shareholder would seek out a transaction for Zee that is dilutive to the long-term interests of ordinary shareholders, including ourselves, simply defies logic.”
Reliance and Zee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Zee’s statement on Tuesday said it had rejected the Reliance deal offer over valuation concerns and that “it would result in a loss to the stakeholders of the company.”
In recent weeks, Zee, which is a household name in India’s television and film landscape, has found support from Bollywood stars, who have said on social media they hope the crisis ends soon for the group. (Reporting by Abhirup Roy, Editing by Aditya Kalra and Raju Gopalakrishnan)