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Zee has two weeks to reply to shareholder lawsuit: court
Photo Credit: 123RF.com

India's companies court on Friday gave Zee Entertainment two weeks to file its reply to a case brought by two institutional investors for a meeting of shareholders to discuss an overhaul of top management and the board of directors.

Invesco Developing Markets Fund and OFI Global China Fund LLC, which together account for 17.88% of its shares, want Zee to call an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders ahead of the company's planned merger with the local unit of Japan's Sony Group Corp.

A bench of the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT) in the financial capital of Mumbai passed the order after Zee won relief from an appellate court saying it should be given "reasonable time" to respond in the case.

The impending merger will create India's largest broadcaster, to be headed by Zee's CEO Puneet Goenka, whom Invesco and OFI want out. The funds also want the company's board to be revamped.

Zee's board earlier this month rejected Invesco's calls for an EGM.

Zee approached the higher National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLT) earlier this week seeking more time to reply after NCLT asked it to make its submissions in the case on Oct. 7.

Zee will now file its reply before the NCLT on Oct. 22.

Invesco and OFI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zee's founder Subhash Chandra, also the father of the company CEO Goenka, earlier this week criticised Invesco for trying to effect a hostile takeover and urged the Indian government and regulators to intervene.

Chandra holds no official position at Zee but his family owns 3.99% of the company.

On Friday, Hema Malini, a veteran Bollywood actress and lawmaker, came out in support of Zee.

"India's first purely entertainment channel is facing some trouble and needs government and public support...(Zee) is like an extended family for the Indian film industry and I wish it remains with Indian Management," Malini tweeted.

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