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Ambani duo sets up date at board meet

Mumbai, Dec. 20: Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the flagship company of the Reliance group which has been riven by a battle over ownership issues between the Ambani brothers, has called a meeting of its 12-member board on December 27.

The ostensible reason for the meeting is to consider buyback of the company's shares to instil confidence among its 2.3 million shareholders who have watched with concern a drop in the value of their investments since the fight between the brothers spilled out in the open.

The meeting has been fixed for the day before Dhirubhai Ambani's birth anniversary. Earlier this month, Anil Ambani had sought a board meeting in light of the developments that have quickly followed elder brother Mukesh's comment to a TV channel that there were 'ownership issues'.

The short message to stock exchanges on the board meeting had corporate corridors buzzing over whether or not the board would also consider governance issues within the group Anil has raised.

However, the notice lists as the meeting's agenda share buyback. This is second time RIL will consider a buyback.

'Shareholder value is uppermost in the minds of Reliance Industries and Mukesh Ambani (its chairman),' said a director. The share has plunged from Rs 545.55 on November 18 ' the day Mukesh's comment became public ' to Rs 480.65 at close today.

The shadow boxing that has characterised Brother Vs Brother continued with Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, the treasurer of RIL who is considered close to vice-chairman Anil, resigning (See Business Telegraph).

Since the spat between the brothers erupted in July when the RIL board redefined the roles of the chairman and vice-chairman, making Mukesh the 'final authority' on all decisions in the Rs 99,000-crore group, the directors have met just once on October 27 to ostensibly consider the second quarter results.

On December 6, Anil had requested the convening of a board meeting to discuss several issues, including the resignation of M.L. Bhakta, the senior-most director and a close associate of Dhirubhai. Bhakta had resigned on the grounds of old age but few believe this to be the sole reason.

The other issue Anil wanted the board to discuss was the company's investment in Reliance Infocomm, run by Mukesh.

After receiving Anil's letter, Vinod Ambani, the company secretary of RIL, wrote to the directors seeking a convenient date for a meeting.

RIL has discussed issues outside the agenda at previous board meetings that were tacked on as supplementary. In fact, the July meeting had redefined the roles of the two brothers through a similar method, leading to the clash between Mukesh and Anil.

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