Mukesh Ambani readies India’s Alibaba with $24 billion holding firm
Ambani’s move is latest sign of Reliance’s pivot toward data & digital services for future growth, as it builds platform to take on Amazon & Flipkart.Mumbai: Billionaire Mukesh Ambani moved a step closer to creating an e-commerce giant for India, unveiling plans to set up a $24 billion digital-services holding company that would become the main vehicle in his ambition to dominate the country’s internet shopping space.
The board of Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. approved a proposal to plow Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($15 billion) into the fully owned subsidiary, which will in turn invest that amount in Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., the conglomerate’s telecommunications venture. A series of capital transfers would make Jio, which already has capital of 650 billion rupees, almost debt free by March 2020, the parent said Oct. 25.
The move by Asia’s richest man is the latest sign of the oil-to-petrochemicals group’s pivot toward data and digital services for future growth, as it builds an online platform to take on the likes of Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.‘s Flipkart Online Services Pvt. in India. Ambani, 62, told shareholders in August that the new businesses, including retail, are likely to contribute half of Reliance’s earnings in a few years, versus about 32% now.
With the new holding firm, Ambani is also readying the businesses for an initial public offering, which he has vowed to complete within five years. Since Jio’s 4G network rolled out in 2016, the carrier has vaulted to the top in India with more than 350 million users. Ambani has also been stitching together a network of partners through acquisitions and stake purchases to build a backbone for his e-commerce plans.
“Given the reach and scale of our digital ecosystem, we have received strong interest from potential strategic partners,” Ambani said in a statement. “We will induct the right partners in our platform company, creating and unlocking meaningful value for RIL shareholders.”
Reliance Industries will invest the money in the holding company — likely on the lines of Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. and Alphabet Inc. — through optionally convertible preference shares. The unit will acquire the parent’s equity investment of 650 billion rupees in Jio, according to Reliance Industries.
Following the equity infusion, Reliance Jio will transfer liabilities worth 1.08 trillion rupees to a subsidiary of the parent, turning Jio almost debt free, excluding airwave-related liabilities.