Bid buzz follows Anil to Tirupati

Read more below

By OUR BUREAU in Mumbai
  • Published 17.12.06

Hyderabad/Mumbai, Dec. 17: Anil Ambani offered prayers and sought the blessings of Lord Balaji for a business venture at the Tirumala temple this morning.

Anil, accompanied by mother Kokilaben, flew into Tirupati on a company jet and spent around 30 minutes at the shrine.

According to temple sources, he placed some documents at the feet of the deity and sought divine blessings. It was not known what the papers were about.

But Anil’s name has cropped up in the race for the acquisition of a stake in Hutchison Essar. There has been a buzz that Hutchison Telecom International, owned by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, is considering selling its 67 per cent stake. The Ruias of Essar own 33 per cent in the firm.

Sources in the Anil camp in Mumbai admitted that the younger Ambani scion had gone to Tirupati with his mother, but refused to be drawn into speculation that this was part of a plan to propitiate the gods before launching his bid for Hutch.

After the noon darshan, the management handed the Ambanis prasadam and a shawl. The Ambanis dropped wads of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in the temple hundi, whose daily collection hit a record Rs 2 crore in October. Temple officials said there was nothing unusual in the Ambanis seeking divine blessings. “We get and service at least a dozen such requests every day,” said a senior official.

Speculation has swirled over the past week that Anil has appointed UBS to advise his group on a possible deal even as attempts are made to tie up with private equity funds like Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts (KKR). The Hutch deal could be worth $8 billion.

Anil has made four trips to Tirupati in the past two years. The first was in November 2004, when the battle with brother Mukesh first escalated. The second was in June 2005, soon after Kokilaben drew up the broad contours of a settlement between the warring brothers. The third trip was in February this year, soon after Anil gained control of the four companies ceded to him.

The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group has been a large telecom player, but mainly in the CDMA space. It has been seeking to build its presence in the GSM segment, where Bharti’s Airtel and Hutch are big players. The group has a small GSM presence, most of it in Bengal and eastern states.