Co-operation talks in the telecom sector between Mukesh and Anil Ambani sparked speculation this week that India’s billionaire brothers may reunite the business empire founded by their late father and conclude one of Asia’s biggest dynastic battles.
Reliance Industries, controlled by the elder and richer Mukesh, is considering leasing Anil’s Reliance Communications telecoms tower infrastructure to launch his upcoming broadband and wireless Internet services.
The deal, which does not involve any equity investment, would provide the ailing RCom - which at the end of March 2011 had a net debt of about $7-billion (U.S.) - with additional revenue after multiple attempts to sell its Infratel towers unit failed.
RCom’s stock price rose nearly 10 per cent since the news emerged, while Reliance Industries shares rose more than 3 per cent, in a clear sign that investors would welcome a move that sees the two brothers joining forces.
Analysts have long speculated that Mukesh Ambani could bid for his brother Anil’s telecoms assets at the right price. Reliance Industries needs the infrastructure to power its Internet business after it acquired Infotel, the only company to have won an India-wide allocation of fourth-generation spectrum in an auction.
In 2005, the two agreed to demerge their father’s empire but a dispute later flared over the price of gas that Reliance Industries should provide to power plants planned by Anil. In 2010, the two brothers signed a deal in an attempt to end the feud, which saw them fighting each other in India’s top courts and in the media.
The two currently live in the same south Mumbai apartment block with their mother - who many see as the main peacemaker - but use different lifts and, it is said, still rarely speak to each other.
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