Media circles in Bangalore are abuzz with rumours that the Hindustan Times group is eyeing Vijaya Karnataka. In fact, rumours are that HT may have already picked up a majority 76 per cent stake in Vijaya Karnataka, Vijay Times and Usha Kirana for Rs 310 crore.
Almost as if in confirmation, HT Media’s scrip, which had been languishing for months below the IPO price of Rs 530, has been flying around on the BSE before the meltdown began.
Logically, it makes sense for HT to acquire an existing paper to take on arch-rival Times of India in the crowded Bangalore market. HT’s gameplan is to morph Vijay Times, which is doing well numbers-wise, into Hindustan Times in the long run. And as if to lend the rumours some credibility, Bangalorean Samar Halarnkar, who edited the Indian Express in Bombay, has joined HT.
But, does Vijay Sankeshwar want to sell the three papers at such a low price, when he was supposed to have quoted Rs 550 crore for just Vijay Karnataka to Ramoji Rao of Eenadu a couple of years ago?
More importantly, having just launched a very expensive edition in Bombay and with a business paper (edited by Raju Narisetti of the Wall Street Journal) to take on Economic Times on the December horizon, does HT Media have the money to buy or acquire? Notwithstanding K.K. Birla suddenly getting richer by at least Rs 750 crore by selling his stake in Zuari cement.