Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and Walt Disney initiated the antitrust due diligence for the planned Reliance-Disney merger. Reliance appointed Khaitan & Co and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, while Disney enlisted AZB & Partners. Four individuals familiar with the matter confirmed that the merger is expected to encounter antitrust challenges and undergo intense scrutiny.
Reliance-Disney Merger Plans Advance with Key Legal Appointments
Reliance appoints Indian law firm Khaitan & Co and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, while Disney brings in AZB & Partners. The move signals progress as both companies, with major streaming services and 120 television channels, consider merging to create an entertainment powerhouse in India. Reliance is expected to hold a majority stake. In a significant step, senior Disney executives from Burbank and top Reliance officials from Mumbai signed a non-binding term sheet on the deal during a trip to London in late December.
Silence from Disney and Reliance Amid Antitrust Speculations
Disney chose not to comment, and Reliance did not respond to queries from Reuters. Khaitan and Shardul also refrained from commenting, while AZB did not promptly respond to Reuters queries.
Any potential merger between Reliance and Disney is expected to encounter antitrust challenges and may attract intense scrutiny. Reuters has reported that assets like TV channels might be divested to alleviate concerns about their consolidated market power.
Sources familiar with the Reliance-Disney merger due diligence revealed that the work for antitrust review is in its initial stages.
If a deal is finalized between Reliance and Disney, it would mark the second significant transformation in India’s TV and streaming landscape as Japan’s Sony is also planning to merge its India business with India’s Zee Entertainment.
Reliance Battles Disney with Free Streaming of IPL
In a fierce battle with the U.S. company, Ambani’s Reliance offers free streaming of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, whose digital rights were previously held by Disney in India. Disney’s struggling India business faces intense competition.
Antitrust experts highlight that a key area of scrutiny in a potential Disney-Reliance merger would be their streaming businesses and their influence over advertising during cricket, as reported by Reuters.
Disney Hotstar app retains the rights for International Cricket Council’s matches in India until 2027, while Reliance’s JioCinema app holds the rights for IPL. In early-stage talks, company executives have reportedly disagreed over whether Disney or Reliance’s entertainment unit holds a higher valuation, as per Reuters.