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Star looks to cash in on Sachin Tendulkar craze, raises ad rates by 40%

NEW DELHI: NEW DELHI: Cashing in on the hype surrounding Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Test matches, broadcaster

Star

India has raised ad rates by almost 30-40%. Advertisers and media buyers ET spoke to said while interest among the advertising fraternity is high for the Master Blaster’s 199th and 200th Test matches, to be played in Kolkata and Mumbai this month, they said advertisers may not be willing to cough up the premium being demanded.

Typically, broadcasters charge anywhere between Rs 30,000 and Rs 50,000 for a high-interest Test match series. But for the series against West Indies, Star is demanding anywhere between Rs 60,000 and Rs 1 lakh per 10 seconds.

“Star is asking higher rates (for the two matches) and there’s a certain level of interest among advertisers. But it’s not a big frenzy … it’s generally not boom time in advertising and rates could have been very low for the upcoming Test series had it not been for the Sachin factor,” says Ashish Bhasin, chairman India & CEO South East Asia at media buying firm Aegis Group.

Advertisers, many of whom are still negotiating deals with Star, said ad rates would have to be realistic. “There’s a premium being charged, but we don’t know if it is justified. Viewership will certainly be high because these are Sachin’s final Tests, but if he gets out cheap, it will fall. We are still negotiating,” says Shubhodip Pal, chief marketing officer of mobile phone maker Micromax.

Star, which has invested heavily on cricket acquisitions, is trying to use the opportunity to make the best of Tendulkar’s swansong. Sanjay Gupta, COO at Star India, says: “The frenzy among sports fans for Sachin’s last two matches has the same appeal compared to an India final in the World Cup.”

While Gupta declined to comment on the ad rates being demanded, he said advertisers such as telecom services provider Airtel, tobacco-to-consumer goods firm ITC, insurance firm Bharti AXA and confectionery maker Perfetti van Melle were among the ones who had picked up sponsorship and spot buys for the series.

Last month, Star India had acquired title sponsorship rights for all international cricket matches to be played in the country till March 2014 at 2 crore per match – this was 40% lower than what telecom services provider

Bharti Airtel

had paid for the same sponsorship last year, an indication that the advertising market has dried up to a large extent, hit by the economic gloom and dwindling interest in sponsorship rights.

Star India has acquired the rights for a period of six months till March next year. With the matches at Eden Gardens and Wankhede, Tendulkar will also become the first cricketer ever to play 200 Test matches.

The rates are still significantly lower than what an IPL T20 match commands. IPL broadcaster Multi Screen Media had charged anywhere between Rs 4 and Rs 4.5 lakh per 10 seconds of ad time for IPL 6, while for the final four games of the T20 tournament, the asking rate shot up to Rs 15 lakh per 10 seconds. Ad rates for the final of IPL 5 were around Rs 10 lakh per 10 seconds.

Exhaustion and fever force Neeraj to leave welcome function midway

Exhaustion and “slight” fever forced

star

javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra to leave midway the welcome ceremony at his village near Panipat, organised to celebrate his historic gold medal at Tokyo Olympics.

The 23-year-old Chopra, who has been on a busy schedule since his return to the country on Monday last after winning India’s first Olympic medal in athletics, has taken a break to give his body some much-needed rest.

A source close to Chopra told PTI that the star athlete should be fine after a good rest and that he left the function as a precautionary measure.

Chopra has been attending various felicitation functions in Delhi. Finally, he returned home at his native Khandra village, around 15 km from Panipat, on Tuesday to a rousing reception from the locals.

“A lot of people turned up and he reached the venue of the welcome function near his village on a cavalcade. It took time to reach the venue of the function,” the source said.

“But midway into the function he was feeling exhausted and started having slight fever. So, he left the function and had taken rest at a house nearby,” the source said.

“There are some rumours that he has been taken to a hospital. It is not like that. He is all right, it’s not a serious issue. Basically, he is feeling exhausted due to attending many functions non-stop after arrival from Tokyo. He is taking rest at a place not very far from his house.”

Asked why Chopra has not gone home, the source said, “He will go home, that is for sure, but he does not want a frenzy from people, including the media.”

The day Chopra returned from Tokyo, he and other Olympic medal winners were felicitated by the sports ministry. The next day, he attended a felicitation function organised by the Athletics Federation of India.

After that, Chopra developed high fever and missed the felicitation functions organised by the Punjab and Haryana governments on Thursday and Friday. He was tested for COVID-19 but returned negative.

He, however, made it to the high tea hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind for the Indian Olympic contingent.

On Sunday, Chopra was among the Tokyo Olympians who attended the Independence Day function at the Red Fort. In the evening, he was the cynosure of all eyes at the felicitation function organised by Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

China keeps key Eastern African state of Kenya on tenterhooks

In the Chinese mind, Africa is a backward continent that is to be exploited for its

natural

resources and used as a platform to give Chinese companies the opportunity to invest and create infrastructure that is more useful to China than the host country. Kenya is a classic example of an African nation which has gone

deep

into debt with China. Recently, it withdrew its request for China to extend debt repayment holiday to December 2021. This happened in the wake of opposition from Chinese lenders that froze disbursements to local projects. Thus, Kenya was forced to drop its push for debt repayment holiday extension fearing a strain in relations with its largest foreign creditor.

The Kenyan Treasury says it decided not to seek an extension of the debt relief beyond June 2021 and claimed that Kenya was fully paying the Exim Bank of China, which had funded the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). Chinese lenders, especially Exim Bank, were uncomfortable with Kenya’s push for extension of the debt service suspension with the developed nations. This prompted delays in disbursements to projects funded by Chinese financiers. The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi acknowledged that there was hitch in the funding, adding that the matter was being addressed by officials of the two countries.

Data from the Central Bank of Kenya shows that foreign exchange reserves dropped by 35.2 billion Kenyan Shilling between 15 July and 21 July. World Bank data shows that the only major debt repayment for Kenya in July 2021 was for loans linked to SGR, signalling re-payment of Chinese loans. Chinese- funded projects faced a cash crunch in June 2021, with contractors reporting delayed payments from banks like Exim Bank of China. Amidst news of Kenya’s inability to pay its SGR debt, reports also indicated that the Chinese operator of SGR had demanded billons of Kenyan Shillings in unpaid bills before handing over the project fully to Kenya.

Pertinently, Africa

Star

Railway Operation Company Ltd (Afristar), the Chinese-owned company contracted to run train services, has listed clearing of its debts as a pre-condition, before SGR operations can be transferred to Kenya in May 2022. The Kenyan Parliament in 2020 revealed that Kenya had not paid 38 billion Shillings to Afristar, which is owned by China Road and Bridge Corporation. Afristar had been contracted in May 2017 to run the passenger and cargo trains on the SGR. The total amount that Kenya borrowed from China to build the SGR, is actually close to 420 billion Kenyan Shillings, mainly to build the railway line from Nairobi to Mombasa and for purchase of engines and coaches.

The SGR line began operations in 2017. Subsequently, it was linked to another new track to Naivasha, also funded by Chinese loans amounting to US$ 1.5 billion. China is one of Kenya’s biggest foreign creditors, having lent
758 billion Shillings in April 2021 to build rail lines, roads and other infrastructure projects in the past decade. The SGR operation agreement requires the Kenyan government to provide for a fixed service monthly

payment, which is made quarterly in advance, at a rate of US$ 28.8 million (3.12 billion Kenyan Shilling). Apart from the operating fees, Kenya is obligated to honour repayment of the 324 billion Kenyan Shillings it borrowed for the project from the Exim Bank of China (May 2014). It started repaying only in 2020, after the expiry of the five-year grace period.

The terms and conditions of China’s loan deals with developing countries are unusually secretive. One aspect of note is that they require borrowers to prioritise repayment of Chinese state-owned banks, ahead of other creditors. Reuters had earlier revealed number of such contracts with specific T&C. The Reuters story gives information about a dataset, compiled over three years by Aid Data, a US research lab at the College of William & Mary, Virginia. The dataset comprises 100 Chinese loan contracts with 24 low- and middle- income countries, number of which are struggling under mounting debt burden amid the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. A portion of China’s loans to Kenya have been made on a commercial basis by government agencies. Therefore, while China is a member of the G 20 and a signatory to the deal, it cannot apply the same terms as the G 20 countries, while reserving the right on the size and which loans will attract the moratorium. The challenge that Kenya faces that it needs to settle the billions of shillings in unpaid bills or restructure the liability into a debt that will be repaid over a longer period. Either way, it drags the nation further into debt.

The dataset contains several unusual features, including confidentiality clauses that prevent borrowers from revealing the terms of the loans, informal collateral arrangements that benefit Chinese lenders over other creditors and promises to keep the debt out of collective restructuring. In January 2021, China and other rich countries under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) gave Kenya a six-months debt repayments relief.

Kenya had already sought for an extension of the public loan repayment relief under the G 20 debt suspension initiative to December, from the initial deadline of June, saving an additional 39 billion Kenyan Shillings (US$ 361 million). The G 20 countries, rescheduled payments of 32.9 billion Kenyan Shillings in principal and interest due between January and June to the next four years with a one- year grace period.

Also, the pressure to close the Afristar issue comes during the Covid-19 pandemic hitting government revenues and forcing Kenya to turn to the IMF and World Bank for direct budgetary support. The Kenyan government’ predicament is a direct consequence of taking loans from China to construct an expensive railway line, which it does not need and afford. For China, it has given it a stake in the country’s infrastructure and intensified the level of indebtedness of Kenya. Both ways, it is only China which benefits. That should be the lesson for nations in Africa.