Reader's Digest thwarted in bid to control Indian affiliate

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BOMBAY -- Troubled U.S. publisher Reader's Digest Association suffers yet another setback with the refusal by the Indian government to grant it permission to gain complete control of its Indian affiliate.

The Pleasantville, New York-based publisher's proposal to buy 100% of Bombay-based RDI Print & Publishing was disallowed on grounds that a 1955 law on books restricted foreign investment in Indian print media ventures. The current right-wing Indian government has no intention of revoking that law.

"That is why I have also rejected Reader's Digest's proposal," Sushma Swaraj, information and broadcasting minister in New Delhi, told the Business Standard newspaper.

Reader's Digest is one of the oldest selling magazines in India. It launched an English-language Indian edition in 1953 and retained ownership of the Indian publishing unit till anti-foreign laws in the 1970s forced it to sell to local eminent citizens of Bombay. The Tata Group, India's No. 1 industrial conglomerate, then bought control of the company and in a refocusing move sought to sell Reader's Digest assets like the flagship magazine and books to the U.S. publisher.

The Indian Reader's Digest has an estimated print run of 400,000 copies, most of them sold on subscription.

Copyright September 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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