The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ambanis brace for new bout

Mumbai, Jan. 18: Starting with its energy powerhouse tomorrow, the Reliance group kicks off three days of back-to-back board meetings in firms where the row between the Ambani brothers could take a new, more acrimonious, turn.

Directors at IPCL will hunker down for a session on Thursday while flagship Reliance Industries (RIL) will carry out its stock-taking drill the day after. All firms are meeting, ostensibly, to consider third-quarter results, but eyes will hardly be riveted on the arcane financial nuggets.

IPCL, where board member and Mukesh confidant Anand Jain has been in the firing line of Anil, will consider the resignation of the younger Ambani as vice-chairman. There is no word on whether Anil will attend the IPCL board meeting, though it's certain he will not skip RIL's.

Today, however, the spotlight was on Reliance Energy, where results of a postal ballot revealed that the shareholders voted overwhelmingly for Reliance Industries in nominating directors on the board of the energy firm. RIL owns more than 50 per cent of the company.

The entity amended the articles of association to give Reliance Industries the power to appoint directors. Until today, the authority was almost fully vested in Anil, its chairman.

On the face of it, the move is a setback to Anil, whose turf would appear to have shrunk. However, his camp is betting that this will set a precedent for other Reliance firms, especially Reliance Infocomm. The telecom venture is largely considered a Mukesh bailiwick.

The Anil camp hopes the new arrangement at REL will force Mukesh on the backfoot, piling pressure on him to make the affairs of Infocomm ' set up with Rs 8000 crore of Reliance Industries' cash ' more transparent.

It is not known whether the vote at REL will lead to a flurry of director resignations on Wednesday. Six of them, including one in an independent capacity, had quit recently, but were reinstated after the board meeting.

On the agenda of the REL board will be the funding of mega power projects and the availability, timing and pricing of gas from Reliance's gas find in the Krishna-Godavari basin.

The postal ballot will also come up for discussion, though Reliance Industries had indicated last month it did not see much merit in amending the REL rule-book in a way that gave the flagship more powers on directors.

According to Reliance Energy sources, as many as 66 per cent of the shareholders cast votes. While 63 per cent went for changes that will favour parent Reliance Industries, 3 per cent opposed the move, sources said. Details of the ballot were filed with stock exchanges today.

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