FDI nod for Disney as govt approves $180 mln proposal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India approved a $180 million foreign direct investment plan by U.S. media group Walt Disney (DIS.N), part of a new push to clear a backlog of investment proposals as the finance ministry seeks to inject new life into the slowing economy.

In total, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram cleared 10 foreign direct investment proposals worth 12.6 billion rupees, on the recommendation of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), the government said on Thursday.

Disney had in February acquired a controlling stake in UTV, one of India's premier media and entertainment companies, then delisted it after spending about $375 million to buy out other investors.

Disney has plans to restructure its digital assets in India to drive growth in segments like mobile, online and interactive TV, the company says on its India website.

A Disney India spokeswoman declined to comment when asked about the investment ruling. One industry analyst said the planned investment was related to the UTV acquisition.

The company had asked the government permission to invest 10 billion rupees to expand its business in India and invest in subsidiaries including broadcasting companies, the government said.

Since taking charge of the ministry last month, Chidambaram has directed officials to put FDI approvals on fast track as part of a drive to revive investor confidence after growth slowed to its slowest pace in nearly a decade.

"We have been directed by the minister to meet more frequently and clear FDI proposals as early as possible," said a senior official in the finance ministry, who declined to be named.

The FIPB is due to next meet on Friday to consider 10 FDI proposals from pharmaceutical companies, including eight that had been deferred in earlier meetings, he said.

"Most of the proposals are expected to be approved," the official said.

(Additional reporting by Arup Roychoudhury and Nandita Bose; Editing by David Holmes)

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2012 23:00 PM

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