By Jahabar Sadiq, October 28, 2011, The Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Businessman Datuk K.K. Eswaran
, who has
close ties with Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s family, is behind the new cable
television venture Nilamas Corporation Sdn Bhd, which is to start
service as early as the first half of next year, say industry sources.
The Malaysian Insider
understands that the company, which
expects to spend RM2 billion to challenge satellite TV operator Astro
for a share of the local market, has now been renamed Asian Broadcasting
Network Sdn Bhd. The new brand will be launched next month.
“Datuk Kenneth Eswaran (picture) is behind this
venture and his ties with the first family have ensured he got fast
approval for the required licences,” an industry source told The Malaysian Insider, referring to the Indian businessman’s preferred name.
Those close to the venture confirmed Eswaran’s interest,
pointing out that Nilamas shares two common directors with the
businessman’s main corporate vehicle, Pinehill Pacific Berhad. The two
are former top civil servants Tan Sri Mohamad Noor Abdul Rahim and Datuk
Nik Mohd Amin Nik Abu Bakar.
“Eswaran is politically connected. It’s no surprise he got quick
approvals but he now has to launch it,” another industry source said,
confirming the new brand name launch is slated for next month.
Eswaran is the deputy executive chairman of Pinehill Pacific, where
he is a substantial shareholder. The company has made a few name changes
from its original Benta Plantations to Best World Land Bhd in 1995, a
year after Eswaran came in, and then renamed Multi Vest Resources Bhd in
2000. It took its present name last January.
The businessman was elected president of the Malaysian Associated
Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) in June 2008 and was
linked to Najib’s family by popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, who
edits the Malaysia-Today news portal.
The Star daily reported last week that Nilamas had secured
all the requisite licences to offer digital cable TV in the country, and
will compete in the pay-TV space with Astro All Asia Networks plc
(Astro) and several IPTV providers including Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM).
The set-up cost for the cable network offering is expected to be more
than RM2 billion over a five-year period and Nilamas, according to
sources, is looking at a 40:60 equity-debt combination to fund its
Retired navy chief and former armed forces chief Admiral (Ret) Tan
Sri Mohd Anwar Mohd Nor is one of the directors of the company, which
has invested in a building in Puchong for its broadcasting centre.
The newspaper also said the new station plans to offer entertainment and educational programmes with an interactive focus.
Nilamas secured the requisite licences to offer subscription
broadcasting in the country from the industry regulator, Malaysian
Communication and Multimedia Commission, on August 11 and with this
licence it is allowed to offer broadcasting services for a fee.
The company also has network facilities licences that will allow it
to build up a network and also a network service provider licence. The
licences are valid for five years.
It has begin hiring people and already has a chief executive officer,
television industry veteran Sreedhar Subramaniam, who had served as
chief financial officer in NTV7 and also as chief executive of The Malaysian Insider.
The Star quoted sources as saying the company now has 20 people and is looking to expand to 800 by the time of its launch.
Sources also said the company was in talks with numerous content
providers but added that it might find it difficult to secure content
already sold to competitors such as Astro and TM.
Astro began service in 1996 with 22 channels and took a decade to
break even. It currently broadcasts some 125 pay-TV channels in four
major languages including eight channels in high definition across
Malaysia and Brunei to more than 2.93 million households.
Sources told The Malaysian Insider that the new venture
would use fibre for its backhaul which will be leased from fibre
operators such as TM, Time dotCom Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Fiberail and