Network18 Media and Investments is on track to raise Rs 500 crore through sale of non-core assets by end of next financial year, Sarbvir Singh, Head, Investments said in an interview to CNBC-TV18. The company returned to profits in the December quarter after seven successive quarters of losses. Network18’s digital businesses continue to bleed money even as the topline has reported a strong growth.
"Going into next year, I would expect that the absolute (loss) number will start to come down and our topline growth will still be very healthy," Singh said. He expects the company's revenues to grow 20-30 percent annually, driven by a healthy mix of growth in the broadcasting and digital businesses.
"Our television businesses are right now our engines of profitability and our digital businesses is where we are investing this money (raised through stake sales) and I think in the next two-three years, investors will be pleased with the overall mix and the results that will come out of this strategy," Singh said.
Below is the edited transcript of Sarbvir Singh's interview with CNBC-TV18
Q: Can you tell us exactly what has been the income stream from the various businesses that were hived off – some money coming in from bookmyshow.com, some sales perhaps coming in from Newswire18, can you take us through the flow of incomes?
A: In terms of Network18, the business that we sold this quarter was Newswire18 where we made a profit of Rs 65 crore. This business had yearly revenues of about Rs 50 crore, which will now go out of our profit and loss (P&L) from next year.
Bookmyshow.com was a partial stake sale last quarter, we continue to own 40 percent and control the business. So we do show all their revenues and profits in our results.
Q: Are you on target for the Rs 500 crore divestment proceeds you were looking for in this fiscal itself?
A: No, our Rs 500 crore target is for two years. This year, we have done about Rs 200 crore already. We expect to do some more in Q4. However, in the next 12 months, I think we are well on track to do our Rs 500 crore that we have planned.
Q: How will revenues look in that case? It is a little difficult for an investor to plot revenues when there is a lot of consolidation happening in terms of subsidiaries being spun off or sold off, what will revenue growth look like for FY14?
A: In terms of this Rs 500 crore, most of these sales are coming from businesses which are our investments. So the revenue profile of the company is not largely impacted by them. Our revenue profile should continue to grow at 20-30 percent year-on-year and is largely coming from our television business and our digital content and commerce business.
Just to give you a sense, our digital content and commerce business grew over 100 percent this quarter on the back of 80 percent growth last quarter. So, I think we are very pleased with the top-line trajectory of these businesses. The margins are also improving in them although they are still negative. So I think if you play this out over the next few years, we will be able to get in this money from our investments and yet continue to show very rapid revenue growth on overall basis.
Q: At the moment, in terms of operating profit and margins what is positive is the television and motion pictures business, right? The digital content and e-commerce business, while revenues have grown YoY from Rs 58 crore to Rs 119 crore, in profit terms it is still negative. It is a loss of Rs 31 crore. When does that get into the black or into the green if you please?
A: I think that will take some more time. The opportunity over there is still immense and I think we are in the process of building these businesses out delighting our customers and giving them a great experience all of which costs a little bit of money.
So, I think next year we will still probably be a little bit negative but as you can see even this quarter we have kept the absolute numbers stable and we have grown the topline or doubled the topline. Going into next year, I would expect that the absolute number will start to come down and our topline growth will still be very healthy.
This is our strategy if you look at it. Our television businesses are now our engines of profitability and our digital businesses is where we are investing this money and I think in the next two-three years, investors will be pleased with the overall mix and the results that will come out of this strategy.
Q: Can you tell us what is the shortlist or what are the immediate businesses that you are looking to perhaps hive off or get investors in?
A: I think we would rather not go into the specifics of those businesses. However, we have given guidance that anything outside of television and digital content and commerce are areas where we are looking to either divest or to rationalize those businesses.
Q: So you would expect operating margins to be better than what you have posted in the current quarter, at a group level that is 2 percent?
A: Absolutely. You will find that over the next year or so–-I do not want to get into quarters-- the operating margins will be going up as we continue down this path.
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