Pyramid Saimira will undergo massive restructuring soon – it is closing shutters of ‘unviable’ subsidiaries overseas and bringing the others under a single umbrella. The Indian entertainment multinational lost Rs 40.32 crores when its Rajnikant starrer Kuselan bombed at the box office, and is now reeling under a massive liquidity crunch. (Related: the issue of stars in films). Pyramid Saimira was in the digital distribution business, owns a European DTH company Spize TV and gaming developer Aurona Technologies, among others.
Pyramid Saimira had reported a net loss of Rs 74.74 crore in the quarter ended December 2008. It recorded net sales of Rs 137.94 crore. The company also faces a tax bill of Rs 26.57 crores that has been deferred to March 31st.
Promoters To Dilute Further
The core promoters, V Natrajan, N Narayanan and PS Saminathan, have already diluted their stake from 25 percent to 17.9 percent to raise liquidity to help it overcome the financial crisis. Other promoters include corporate bodies with 25 percent; FIIs/FIs hold around 12 percent; CitiGroup Global Markets, Bennett Coleman & CO, Mavi Investments with 3.41 percent, 1.77 percent and 1.81 percent respectively; Punjab National Bank with 3.54 percent. The promoters are now considering further diluting their shares and are talking to private equity players and financial institutions to raise liquidity.
The Rise: A Pleasant Autumn…
In June 2008, the company had leased over 45 lakh seats through 802 screens worldwide. In early September, Saimira acquired distribution rights for four more films in India. It set up a joint venture in China and planned to invest $30 million to establish 25 theatres. It inaugurated the 290 seat Huainan Pyramid Lonozhe Theatre Entertainment Tower in China. It announced plans to invest Rs 200 crores towards renovation of 250 screens in South India. In October 2008, the company’s London based subsidiary Aurona Technologies bagged a gaming contract from the publisher Deep Silver.
The Fall: …Followed by a Chilly Winter
In September, Pyramid Saimira reviewed its expansion plans quoting ‘high inflation, slackening of demand for entertainment and food products and constraints of margins in leisure industry’ as reasons. Medianama reported Pyramid was closing down 33 screens and had dropped plans for acquisitions in UK and Europe. The number of screens fell to 745 by September and to 252 by December due to poor spending and content failure .
Kotecha Dumps Stock: Price Manipulation?
In November, Pyramid’s director, Nirmal Kotecha, resigned from the company. Nirmal Kotecha had invested in Pyramid shares and even bought shares from other investors. After the IPO, he held 70,36,619 shares, close to 25 percent shares in September. He started selling them quickly in November and by December owned only 12.92 percent shares in the company. Earlier this month, he dumped his entire holding of 0.24 per cent in the company, sparking curiosity and talk of price manipulation in the shareholding community.
Foul Play: Stock Loses 94% of its Market Value
False media reports claiming that SEBI had ordered P S Saminathan, a promoter, to make open offer at a price that was at a substantial premium to its market price put the company in the limelight in December. As the company’s stock rose, it fell again when SEBI clarified that it had not issued such a letter. A whopping 72 lakh shares were traded during this period, raising eyebrows.
Subsequently SEBI began an investigation to track the apparently forged letter. In a press release to BSE, the company alleged that competitors were hammering its share price and creating panic amongst investors. But harm had been done and Pyramid’s stock took a sharp dive to Rs 29.05. The stock has lost 94 per cent of its market value in the course of a year.
Future is In Consolidation
Reeling from its bad fortunes, the company announced in January that it was undertaking measures to increase profitability of its screens by reducing their numbers and moving some to a revenue sharing model to cut operational losses. It announced that the group had the following companies under it:
— Saimira Access Technologies – a services and IPTV provider
— Spize TV Pte – a DTH provider in UK
— Its USA subsidiary;
— Joint ventures in China and Malaysia
— Its subsidiaries Dimple Cine Advertising
— Game developer Aurona Technologies
— Post production subsidiary
— Content distribution subsidiary for Singapore and India and
— Its umbrella company for exhibition and investment holding Pyramid Saimira Theatre
Now, the company may have to surrender some of these too. PSTL president N Narayanan has told Financial Express, “We came to an understanding that some of these subsidiaries are not doing well and found to be unviable. We want to close those unviable ones while bringing all the other subsidiaries under single holding company.”
This month, the company is fighting off rumours of SUN TV acquiring the group and betting on the Tamil movie Naan Kadavul that will release in five cities in US.
Sep 1: Pyramid Saimira acquires distribution rights for four films
Sep 17: Inaugurates its first ever Cineplex in China
Sep 23: Reviews Expansion Plans, closes 33 screens; drops plans for acquisitions in UK and Europe
Sep 30: Announces plans to modernize 250 screens in South India
Oct 6: Subsidiary Aurona Technologies announces game art contract with US-based Deep Silver
Nov 17: Director Kotecha Resigns
Dec 5: Amends its Initial Conversion Price of FCCBs from Rs 454.00 per Bond to Rs 246.50.
Dec 22: Issues clarification on media reports on Open Offer
Dec 24: Issues a press release calling for an investigation by SEBI
Jan 13: Issues clarification on news of P S Saminathan selling shares at a low price
Jan 30: Announces Q3 Results
Feb 2: Denies reports of Sun TV group acquiring the Pyramid Saimira