India’s Reliance talking with DreamWorks

India’s Reliance Entertainment and other investors are in talks with Hollywood’s DreamWorks SKG to raise up to $2 billion to create a movie venture, two people familiar with negotiations said Tuesday.

Dreamworks, the movie studio founded in 1994 by moguls Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, is looking to raise a total of $2 billion from investors — $1 billion in equity and another $1 billion for new movie projects, the two people with knowledge of the talks told The Associated Press. They said they could not be named because negotiations were ongoing.

There are four to five other parties involved in the talks, including Universal Pictures, one of the individuals said.

Reliance Entertainment, part of one of India’s top conglomerates, the Reliance ADA Group, plans to invest more than $500 million to $600 million in equity, that same person said.

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that DreamWorks SKG is trying to raise about $1 billion to break from Viacom Inc. and its movie studio, Paramount Pictures.

Viacom bought DreamWorks SKG in 2006 for $1.6 billion, but the relationship has declined despite hits such as “Transformers” and “Dreamgirls.”

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said last year his company was planning for Spielberg’s possible departure following reports that the Academy Award-winning director was unhappy at Paramount.

Meanwhile, India’s movie industry — often called Bollywood — has expanded as several foreign studios such as Sony Corp., Viacom and Walt Disney Co. have signed co-production deals with Indian movie houses over the last two years.

“It’s powerful mix: a top Indian business house with one of the world’s finest filmmakers,” said Neeraj Roy, managing director of Hungama Mobile, a leading digital entertainment company, referring to Spielberg. “It makes imminent sense for Hollywood to collaborate with Bollywood because there is capital available in India.”

A deal between Reliance and Dreamworks would help realize the global ambitions of the group’s chairman, Anil Ambani, one of the world’s richest men. The conglomerate has interests in everything from power generation to financial services. It is currently in negotiations to buy MTN Group, South Africa’s largest mobile phone network operator.

Reliance Entertainment spearheads the conglomerate’s thrust into the media and entertainment business.

The company has 100 films in production and development in India. In addition to this, during the Cannes Film Festival last month Reliance Big Entertainment announced it would provide about $1 billion to develop and co-produce movies with top Hollywood stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Nicholas Cage, Tom Hanks and filmmakers Chris Columbus’ 1492 Pictures.


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