Stock Exchange seeks clarification from NDTV on Ajay Singh’s stake-buy

NDTV Promoter Prannoy Roy with former PM Manmohan Singh

The National Stock Exchange has again sought a clarification from NDTV after the Indian Express reported that SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh was now the biggest shareholder in the media company.

UPDATE: NDTV has denied the rumors.

According to the newspaper, Singh has acquired a 60% stake in the media company, restricting existing promoters led by Prannoy and Radhika Roy to 20%.

“(We) have advised the Company to provide clarification/confirmation on the news item in detail including the following: a) Whether such negotiations were taking place and b) Whether you or the company are aware of any information that has not been announced to the Exchanges which could explain the aforesaid movement in the trading,” the NSE said in a statement.

The company is expected to reply by afternoon, though it does not have to comment on behalf of its owners who are free to buy and sell their stakes.

Earlier this month, the exchange had sent off a similar query to the media company after its shares started gaining in double-digit percentages for several days in a row.

In the first week of September, the company’s stock had appreciated about 80% to about Rs 66.50 without any apparent reason. The stock was seeing volumes of about 2.5 mln per day, about 10% of its public shareholding.

“We wish to inform you that the company is neither aware of the reason for the present sudden spurt in the share price of the company nor is aware of any information which in its opinion may have a bearing on the price or volume behavior of the scrip,” the company told the NSE at the time.

NDTV used to be a valuable stock up to about mid 2008, when it was trading in the Rs 400-500 price band. However, since the global financial crisis, which also resulted in a correction in both the media and stock markets in India, the stock has been in the Rs 100 range.

The media house operates India’s oldest English language TV news channel, NDTV 24×7, and is considered ‘left of center’ in its approach to covering news.

As a result, it has been the target of vicious attacks on social media from the other side of the political spectrum, including from the supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

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SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh, on the other hand, is considered close to the ruling dispensation and is widely credited with coining the popular 2014 election catchphrase ‘Abki Bar, Modi Sarkar’ (This time for Modi Government!)

Despite facing financial difficulties, partly as a result of a failed attempt to diversify into entertainment channels, NDTV has been more successful than most of its peers in adapting to the digital age. Its technology portal, for example, is one of the highest-earning web properties in India.