3i enters India with media deal

The global venture capital firm says its $45m investment in Nimbus is the largest ever private equity investment in the Indian media and entertainment industry.

3i has made its first entry into the Indian market with a $45 million (€36 million) investment in specialist media content provider Nimbus Communications.

3i is taking approximately a third of the equity, according to spokesperson Kathryn van der Kroft.

The Mumbai, India-headquartered business focuses on media, entertainment and sports, producing and supplying Indian language television programming to four continents, Indian language motion pictures and content to the mobile telecoms industry.

It’s still in the early stages, but as the team grows, the more deals he’ll be able to do.

Kathryn van der Kroft, spokesperson, 3i

Its business operations are spread across India, Singapore, the UK, South Africa and the Caribbean.

“3i believes that Nimbus, with its impressive track record, management depth and global business strategy, is well positioned to achieve its goal of becoming a billion dollar company by 2010,” said Anil Ahuja, 3i’s Mumbai-based managing director and co-head for Asia, in a statement.

Ahuja, formerly head of India investments for JP Morgan, was recruited to head up 3i’s Asia team in March of this year and will focus on gross capital investments of around £10 million to £100 million.

According to van der Kroft, Ahuja is in the process of setting up an office and will be looking to hire for the India team. “It’s still in the early stages, but as the team grows, the more deals he’ll be able to do,” she added.

Nimbus will use the investment to fund sports rights acquisitons, develop global sports events, expand long-term working capital, fund investments in TV production and infrastructure expansion, finance Indian language and international film production, Indian language film distribution, mobile content distribution – and content for wireless and video-on-demand platforms.

3i tried to make its maiden investment in India last month, but was beaten by Silicon Valley’s Sequoia Capital and Bangalore-based WestBridge Capital Partners in the $36 million (€30 million) acquisition of a 15 percent stake in Internet portal IndiaTimes.com.

Following the appointment of Philip Yea as CEO last year, 3i has refined its investment focus and is challenging for a greater slice of the Asian market.

In India, the firm will concentrate on direct investments, according to Chris Rowlands, 3i head of group markets, who recently told PEO that there are currently no plans for investing in funds, although he did not rule out a change in strategy in the future.

3i is not the only large Western private equity group to have India on its radar. Texas Pacific Group and The Carlyle Group have also recently made hires to expand their presence in India, while The Blackstone Group opened an office in Mumbai in May, allocating $1 billion (€790 million) for investment.