Last month, Essel Group, the company that owns India's largest media group, Zee, moved the Delhi High Court to restrain the shareholders of Amar Ujala Publications (it publishes Amar Ujala, the hugely popular Hindi newspaper) from entering into any agreement for the sale of the company till December 31.
That is when Essel's memorandum of understanding (MoU) to buy a majority stake in Amar Ujala expires.
Acting on the plea, the court passed a restraining order about a month ago. So, the end of this year will determine who eventually controls one of India's biggest Hindi dailies: Subhash Chandra's Essel Group or Jagran Prakashan, the other reported bidder and publisher of Dainik Jagran, or some other publishing firm?
There were, at last count, several in the fray.
Amar Ujala, the Hindi newspaper with editions in 12 states, is an asset that any media firm would like to own. With a readership of roughly 8.6 million, it leads in three states: Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Dainik Jagran is the largest-read Hindi daily and is present in 15 states. However, it leads on readership only in Uttar Pradesh. Taking over Amar Ujala can give it leadership in five key states, including Delhi.
"The combination (of Amar Ujala and Dainik Jagran) will also ensure that rivals such as Dainik Bhaskar and Hindustan (published by HT Media) are miles behind in the national ranking," says AS Raghunath, a media consultant. For Zee, the paper has synergies with its Hindi television news business and its English paper, DNA.
This fight for Amar Ujala underscores the importance of Hindi to any publishing firm's national ambitions.
Text: Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, Business Standard