Worldspace India going dark?
Chris Forrester

Worldspace, other than its Indian operation, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. India’s Hindu Business Line newspaper is reporting that the pay-radio broadcaster “may fold its India operations too”.

The paper could not get hold of the India GM at Worldspace (Mr M Sebastian), but sources close to the development say he has already put in his papers, and employees are believed to be in rounds of internal discussions to figure the way out of the quagmire, says the report. ‘We are clue-less, but keeping our fingers crossed,” said a highly placed official to the newspaper.

Rapid TV News has additionally received many, many e-mails from employees and in particular ex-employees of Worldspace grumbling about working practices at the India operation, and complaining about alleged non-payment or slow payment of salaries.

Worldspace (in Chapter 11) has seen gross revenues of $4.6m this year to Nov 30 ($349,928 in November), but operating expenses and reorganisation costs that were much higher leading to an overall filing loss for its ‘in Chapter 11 period’, to Nov 30, of $52m ($3.5m in November). It currently has $1.08m in unpaid post-petition debts outstanding (which it says will be paid in December).

Early this year, Mr Sebastian told Business Line that the company was exploring various possibilities to continue its services worldwide, and as its India operation was not cash-positive though could manage on its own, “we will continue its services in India”. Hiving off its AsiaStar operations into a separate business unit and finding a suitable buyer for that is an option the company was pursuing seriously, he said then.

With over 450,000 subscribers (more than 50% through the Airtel DTH pay-TV package), India accounts for over 95% of the broadcaster’s worldwide subscriber base. Liberty Media is in the process of acquiring Worldspace’s Chapter 11 assets.