India’s Zee Entertainment posts first loss in 3 years on weak ad demand, higher costs

BENGALURU (Reuters) – India’s Zee Entertainment Enterprises on Thursday reported its first quarterly loss in three years, as advertisers tightened their marketing budgets and expenses shot up.

Zee posted a consolidated net loss of 1.96 billion rupees ($23.7 million) for the fourth quarter ended March 31, against a profit of 1.82 billion rupees a year ago, a regulatory filing showed.

The company’s total income fell 9.9% to 21.26 billion rupees, while expenses jumped nearly 10%.

Indian broadcasters have suffered an earnings knock in recent quarters, with analysts indicating that new-age loss making ventures and inflation-hit consumer goods sellers are spending less on advertisements.

Zee in a statement said its March-quarter domestic advertisement revenue slipped by a tenth, blaming a “slowdown in ad spending.”

It also added it is discontinuing its funding to tech startup SugarBox due to inflation and conditions for impending merger with the India unit of Japan’s Sony Group Corp, but would pour money into digital and sports businesses.

Zee had suffered setbacks with creditors over a loan default dispute amid the merger but settled it in March.

However, recent reports said the National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock Exchange may have to reconsider their approvals for the merger, following a ruling by India’s regulator against an entity of Essel Group, which owns Zee.

Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida last week said the company is trying to complete the merger by the end of the first half of the fiscal year ending March.

Zee’s results trailed behind rivals New Delhi Television Ltd, TV Today Network Ltd and TV18 Broadcast Ltd, which reported a fall in profit of between 76% and 98% in the quarter.

Shares of Zee closed 1.08% lower ahead of the earnings, and were down 11.6% in the March quarter.

($1 = 82.7326 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Chennai; Editing by Varun H K)