India news February 20, 2012

BCCI and Nimbus in talks to end dispute

The BCCI is believed to have offered Nimbus Communications a settlement in its dispute over broadcast rights for cricket in India, ESPNcricinfo has learned. The board had terminated Nimbus' contract in December, following which Nimbus filed a claim for damages of close to Rs 600 crores (approx. $121 million) in the arbitration process currently under way.

Two BCCI officials contacted by ESPNcricinfo said they were not aware of the board offering such a settlement. However, a resolution of this issue would mean one less case for the BCCI to fight and would save the board the trouble of finding a new rights holder at a time when the Indian economy is slowing down.

The settlement, this reporter understands, requires Nimbus to drop their claim for damages, which rests mainly on two contentions: that the Indian team rested top players for home series, contrary to the contract, and that there was no India-Pakistan series as stipulated. In return, the board will restore the broadcast rights to Nimbus. The agreement would need to be ratified by Nimbus' shareholders to be accepted.

Nimbus had secured the rights to Indian cricket for four years in January 2010, its second consecutive four-year deal with the Indian board. The agreement was valued at approximately Rs 2000 crore (then $436 million) for a minimum of 64 international matches and 312 days of domestic cricket until 2014. The deal was terminated after the BCCI claimed Nimbus had defaulted on payments and the matter then went into arbitration.

A day after the contract was terminated, Nimbus released a statement saying it had "acted in compliance of its contractual obligations and variations agreed between the parties from time to time". The company had reportedly asked the BCCI for an extension to their payment deadline, but the board turned down the request and decided to scrap their deal at its working committee meeting in New Delhi on December 12, 2011.

The BCCI also tried to invoke the bank guarantees worth Rs 1600 crore (approximately $300 million) given by Nimbus, but the Bombay High Court ruled against them. However, in January the High Court gave Nimbus four weeks to deposit Rs 305 crores (approx. US$61 million) - the amount the board has claimed in unpaid dues - with the court as security.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo