The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Infocomm windfall for Mukesh confidant

Mumbai, Jan. 25: Manoj Modi, a close associate of Mukesh Ambani is one of the key beneficiaries of the Reliance Infocomm booty, having acquired 3 crore shares of the mobile phone major for a measly sum of Re 1 per share through his firm Kaizen Commercial Pvt Ltd.

The shares, giving Modi a 1 per cent stake, are worth Rs 500 crore at prices that market research reports have estimated. He picked them up for a paltry sum of Rs 3 crore.

As reported earlier in The Telegraph, the trail of investment companies that picked up shares of Infocomm led to Mukesh and Nita Ambani. Now, it appears that much of the 45 per cent stake ascribed to the family is actually controlled by Mukesh and his associates. These are individuals whom Anil refers to as the 3Cs ' chamchas, chelas and cronies ' in his letters after differences between the brothers became public.

Manoj acquired the Infocomm shares through Kaizen Commercial, a company he and his wife floated with a paid-up capital of Rs 10 lakh. It is registered at Sharda Sadan in Mumbai's Fort area ' also the address of his broking firm, Sonal Shares & Stock Brokers P. Limited.

Corporate folklore paints Manoj as a person who takes home one of the fattest salaries in Mumbai. He has even earned the honour of being one the city's top income tax payers. Years back, Reliance group founder Dhirubhai is believed to have held him back from joining an Ivy League institute, saying he was 'indispensable'.

In the past few weeks, as the web of Infocomm holdings unravelled, it was apparent that while Modi paid Re 1 for each share on April 2, 2001, Reliance Industries coughed up Rs 250 apiece for its 45 per cent stake in the telecom major. The average price is Rs 26, given the fact that the flagship bought the shares in a piecemeal fashion. Reports suggest RIL's employee trusts own 10 per cent.

The belief so far has been that Infocomm is owned 45 per cent by RIL, 45 per cent by the Ambanis and 10 per cent by employee trusts. However, it is now understood that Dipti Salgaocar and Nina Kothari ' the Ambani sisters ' have not been given any stake in the firm. Nor have the cousins of the Ambanis, Nikhil and Hital Meswani.

Modi, however, has a Rs 500-crore windfall blowing his way ' if a Merrill Lynch valuation of Infocomm at Rs 50,000 crore matches the actual worth of the firm on listing.

Modi was a course-mate of Mukesh's at University Department of Chemical Technology, where both earned their stripes as chemical engineers. Rarely photographed, he prefers to remain in the background and is often referred to 'as one of the brains' Mukesh relies on.

He complements Anand Jain, another Mukesh aide who has been in Anil's firing line. Neither is an employee of Reliance Industries, though Modi is a director on the board of Infocomm.

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