Reliance-Disney merger talks in final stage ahead of Feb 17 deadline: Report

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is inching closer to acquiring Walt Disney Co, as the two sides are in the final stage of negotiations to finalise their mega stock-and-cash merger to create what will be India’s largest business and entertainment entity, The Economic Times has reported (story behind paywall).

Disney and Reliance are in talks to finalise their merger in February 2024. (Reuters)
Disney and Reliance are in talks to finalise their merger in February 2024. (Reuters)

As per the report, February 17 is the exclusivity period deadline to conclude the bilateral negotiations, and RIL plans to inject up to $1.5 billion cash in the proposed venture.

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Reliance to own 60%

RIL, whose chairperson, Ambani, has the highest net worth in Asia, and eleventh-highest globally (real-time, as per both Bloomberg and Forbes), will have 60% ownership of the combined entity, while the sum 40% will lie with Walt Disney Co.

Of Reliance’s 60% shares, Viacom18 alone will get 42-45%, making the latter the single-largest shareholder in the new entity. Founded in November 2007, Viacom18 is a joint venture between US-based Viacom (now Paramount Global; 13.01%) and Ambani’s TV18 (73.91%), and Bodhi Tree Systems.

As a stakeholder (13.08%) in Viacom18, Bodhi Tree Systems, an investment fund, will hold shares in the Reliance-Disney entity as well, albeit indirectly.

‘Final touches being given to deal’

A person aware of the developments told ET that people are ‘working against time’ to give the finishing touches to the deal.

“The Big 4 firms (Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, and KPMG), are doing the diligence from both sides, along with multiple law firms and company executives. They can extend the deadline mutually if they wish to, but both sides have the support of their top leadership to iron out all differences, if any, and wrap things up by the fiscal-end,” the person said.

The new entity’s board is expected to have up to nine members, including three Disney representatives.

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