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NDTV’s digital revenues up 65% to Rs 38 crores, profitable; TV struggles

NDTV’s digital business reported profits of Rs 7 crores on revenues of Rs 38 crores, even as the group continued to make losses. Revenues for the digital business were up marginally quarter on quarter (from Rs 37 crores), and 65% up from Rs 23 crores last year. Profit was marginally lower than from Rs 8 crores last quarter. The business had made a loss of Rs 3 crores for the same quarter last year. Q1 is typically a slow quarter for advertising supported businesses, and other media businesses have mentioned that advertising was held back owing to GST. Expenses for the digital business were Rs 25 crores, marginally lower than Rs 26 crores for the same quarter last year, but higher than the Rs 22 crores reported for the last sequential quarter.

The Group’s TV and allied businesses reported losses of Rs 19 crores on revenues of Rs 77 Crores. Revenues were down from Rs 93 crores last year, while losses were the same as last year.

The company said that its NDTV Convergence business now has 135 million unique visitors a month across properties, which is 100% higher than what it was last year. There’s no mention of pageviews, although the company had said last quarter that it was doing over a billion pageviews on 120 million unique visitors.

During the quarter, NDTV also entered a high traffic segment: railway enquiry. The company launched RailBeeps, a site for checking PNR status for IRCTC, train status, and check for trains running between stations. The product tracks over 12,000 Indian trains, it said.

There’s also no news of its gadgets vertical Gadgets360, which it had said had broken even at an operational level last quarter. The quarter before, NDTV had said that Gadgets360 had reported a Profit After Tax of Rs 73 lakh, with 35 million monthly unique visitors.

NBC Universal deal under the scanner

NDTV is facing an immediate tax demand of Rs 429 crores from the government of India, saying that there is a “3-pronged attack” by the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department. In question is the $150 million investment in NDTV by GE, USA (i.e. the NBC Universal investment), which they’re calling a “sham transaction”. “Separately,” it says, “the Enforcement Directorate informed the Bombay High Court yesterday that it is investigating NDTV for violations under the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) – it has never, of course, informed NDTV of any such charge.” More on this here.

Note that NBC Universal had acquired a 26% stake in NDTV for $150 million in 2008. NDTV decided to buy back the stake in 2009.

Ecommerce losses continue

NDTV’s E-commerce wing continued to make losses, NDTV’s ecommerce business reported revenues of  Rs 3 crores, and losses of Rs 2 crores (post tax). The company claimed improved productivity and reduction of losses in the ecommerce business.

Important: While the press release claims the above revenues and loss for ecommerce, the financials filed suggest that Retail/ecommerce revenues for NDTV were Rs 3.18 crores for the quarter, and Segment Results (Profit/Loss before tax, interest and exceptional items) indicated a loss of Rs 9.66 crore for the segment. The accounts appear to have been restated for the last quarter, probably following the sale of IndianRoots, and the segment revenues and results stated for Q4-FY17 are not in consonance with what was reported last quarter.

The company had signed a deal to sell Indianroots to Nameh Hotels.

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