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NEW DELHI: The fall of Reliance Communications is part of the long decline at the Reliance Group. Personal fortunes of Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani too have shrunk ever since he and his elder brother, Mukesh Ambani, split the family business in 2006.
In 2007, Anil Ambani had a net worth of $45 billion, according to the Forbes Rich List. His biggest asset was a 66% stake in telecom venture Reliance Communications. Elder brother Mukesh had a net worth of $49 billion. In the 2017 Forbes Rich List, Anil’s net worth had shrunk to just $3.15 billion while Mukesh’s was $38 billion.
The group companies too reflected this trend. The 10-year compounded annual growth rates (CAGRs) of Mukesh’s Reliance industries have been 11.2 (sales), 9.4% (profit) and 17.8% (returns), according to a Bloomberg report. The same rates for Anil’s Reliance Group have been 9.4%, -12.6% and -1.7%.
The gap in market value of both the groups too has widened since 2006. The market capitalisation of Reliance Industries rose six times to nearly Rs 6 lakh crore while the combined market value of Anil’s firms—Reliance Capital, Reliance Infrastructure and Reliance Communications—declined about 17% to 47,017 crore. This market cap also includes the value of Reliance Nippon Asset Management and Reliance Home Finance Ltd both of which listed this year. Post-split market cap of Mukesh’s Reliance Industries rose from Rs 96,668 crore to 5,90,500 crore. Combined market cap of Anil’s companies declined from Rs 56,600 crore to Rs 47,000 crore.
As Reliance Communication announced a debt resolution plan that includes selling of its assets, it has come a long way from the dominant position in the market less than a decade ago.
Reeling under Rs 45,000-crore debt, the company will sell telecom assets, including spectrum, towers and fibre, worth Rs 25,000 crore by March 2018 to pre-pay lenders and exit the ongoing strategic debt restructuring (SDR) programme. China Development Bank had filed an insolvency petition against Reliance Communications in the bankruptcy court to recover $1.78 billion it had lent to the company.
In 2010, RCom had a market share of more than 17 per cent and the second position in the telecom segment. By 2016, its market share was less than 10 per cent and it was nowhere among the top firms. As it lost market, its debt piled up. From nearly Rs 25,000 crore in 2009-10, the debt has nearly doubled to Rs 45,000 crore now.
Heavy debt and dipping inability to service it has been the main problem of several Reliance Groups companies such as Reliance Communication, Reliance Power and Reliance Infrastructure.
When Reliance Communication exited wireless business, it was following several such exits by the Reliance Group companies in recent years. In the past few years, the group companies have exited media entertainment, cement and roads due to various reasons but mainly to pare down debt. Recently, Reliance Infrastructure decided to sell its Mumbai power business to Adani Transmission.
The stark difference between the performance of the two brothers was highlighted last month when Anil’s Reliance Communications defaulted on its bond payments but Mukesh’s Reliance Industries Ltd. sold dollar bonds at the cheapest rate by a non-financial Indian issuer ever.