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Zee says it is free to go to India tribunal to enforce Sony merger deal

Illustration shows Sony and Zee logos

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Zee Entertainment can ask an Indian tribunal to enforce a $10 billion merger with Sony's Indian unit after a Singapore arbitration centre rejected an emergency petition by the Japanese company for a stay of proceedings, Zee said on Sunday.

Sony scrapped the merger on Jan. 22, ending a deal that could have created one of India's biggest TV broadcasters, claiming breaches of contract.

Zee rejected the claims and asked an Indian tribunal to order Sony to honour its obligations to complete the merger.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) said it had no jurisdiction or authority to block Zee from approaching the Indian tribunal, adding the merger fell within the purview of the National Company Law Tribunal of India, Zee said in filings to Indian stock exchanges.

Sony said in a statement that it was disappointed by the decision but it was a procedural one ruling only whether Zee could pursue its application with the company law tribunal.

"We will continue to vigorously arbitrate the matter in Singapore in front of a full SIAC tribunal and pursue SPNI’s (Sony India) right to terminate the merger agreement and seek a termination fee and other remedies," it added.

"We remain confident in the merits of our position in both Singapore and India."

The Zee-Sony merger, in the works for two years, would have created an Indian TV juggernaut with more than 90 channels across sports, entertainment and news that would have competed with the likes of Walt Disney, and billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance. In terminating the merger, Sony also cited alleged failure by the Indian media company to meet some financial terms of the deal, a dispute over compliance issues including disposal of some Russian assets and its $1.4 billion Disney cricket rights deal, Reuters reported last week.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Writing by Dhwani Pandya; Editing by William Mallard and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)