The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ambani settlement buzz in market

Mumbai, March 23: The stock market believes the Ambani brothers have settled their dispute but there is no word yet from the family.

Reliance stocks rose even as the market sank on rumours that, in true Bollywood style, the settlement would be announced on Holi at the weekend with Mukesh and Anil sealing the deal in the benevolent presence of mother Kokilaben.

So what's the deal the market is talking about'

That elder Mukesh is making the big sacrifice of handing Reliance Infocomm, the company he sired, to Anil, who already has Reliance Energy and Reliance Capital and will keep them.

Sceptics say it's a ridiculous solution because of Mukesh's attachment to Infocomm and cite Anil's barrage of attacks on his brother over investments made by Reliance Industries (RIL) in that company.

The believers argue it's possible because it's audacious.

Both sides agree, though, that a settlement of the 'ownership issues' Mukesh raised last year is being cast in stone at Seawind, the skyscraper residence of the family.

The Infocomm business, one of the country's largest mobile telephone companies, that Mukesh is said to be giving up is valued at Rs 55,000-75,000 crore by analysts.

In return, he will have the flagship company, RIL, Indian Petrochemicals Corporation and the group's oil and exploration business.

Given the assessment that though Anil picked Infocomm for target practice, the real battle was over RIL, which is the true powerhouse, it is hard to see the younger Ambani surrendering interest in the company.

Besides, Infocomm is in a sector where competition is intense, though growth prospects are also huge.

'Something is in the air,' a Reliance official said. 'These are family matters. How can we comment' he asked.

Anil, who had felt cornered in a situation where Mukesh was calling all the shots by virtue of his grip on RIL, has played his cards well, said analysts.

They added that Anil successfully created the impression that he was being done out of his share without ever actually saying so. On the contrary, he fought the entire battle before the public eye by focusing on corporate governance, or the alleged lack of it, under Mukesh.

He focused on how RIL had paid a heavy price to buy shares in Infocomm in comparison with what Mukesh and his associates had forked out.

In this backdrop, it will be a masterstroke on the part of whoever has structured the settlement ' if there is one ' to ask Mukesh to part with Infocomm.

By way of regulatory requirement, it is also the easiest way to end corporate India's most famous dispute.

Sharing the businesses of Reliance Industries would involve court approval, huge stamp duties and support from other shareholders.

In Infocomm, on the contrary, Mukesh controls substantial equity, and transferring ownership of a company that is not listed is easier.

Last week, Anil had made a surprise visit to Pradeep Baijal, chairman of the watchdog body on telecom, setting tongues wagging.

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