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Sony-ZEE $10 Billion Merger Back on Track After Regulator Ban on MD Punit Goenka Lifted

Sony-ZEE $10 Billion Merger Back on Track After Regulator Ban on MD Punit Goenka Lifted

The ban by Indian regulator Securities and Exchange Board (SEBI) on Punit Goenka, MD-CEO of media giant Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) has been lifted after an appeal.

In June, SEBI barred Goenka and ZEEL chair emeritus Subhash Chandra from holding management positions in listed companies while SEBI carried out investigations into allegations of insider trading and fund siphoning. Goenka appealed the order with India’s Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT).

On Monday, SAT said in a statement: “The impugned order cannot be sustained and is quashed insofar as it relates to the appellant (Goenka). The restraint order passed by the respondent pursuant to the ad interim order and the confirmatory order restraining the appellant from functioning as a managing director is set aside. The appeal is allowed. The appellant shall, however, cooperate in the investigation. In the event any material comes out against the appellant during the investigation, then the appropriate procedure can be adopted by SEBI in accordance with the law.”

SEBI can appeal the SAT decision with India’s Supreme Court.

Goenka’s reinstatement means that the long delayed Sony-ZEE merger is now back on track. In 2021, ZEEL and Sony Pictures Networks India (subsequently renamed Culver Max Entertainment) signed definitive agreements to merge the two entities to create an Indian broadcast giant, with Goenka to lead the merged entity as MD and CEO. The merged entity’s estimated value is some $10 billion.

However, in September this year, Sony had said that the process was delayed, without assigning a specific reason. And earlier this month, there were unsubstantiated rumours that Sony had initiated talks with Disney to buy their India business.

Variety has reached out to Goenka and Sony for comment.

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