India Insight

Third time’s the charm for Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh Ambani(UPDATE: Reliance Industries has gained an overseas foothold by agreeing to pay $1.7 billion to form a joint venture with U.S.-based Atlas Energy. India’s largest-listed firm will pick up a 40 percent stake in Atlas’s operations in the booming Marcellus Shale)

The ruthless efficiency and smooth execution that marked Reliance Industries’ development of the world’s largest refining complex in western India and its vast gas fields off the country’s east coast has eluded the top-listed Indian firm during its recent attempts at overseas takeovers.

Nevertheless, Mukesh Ambani, the world’s fourth-wealthiest man and the chairman of Reliance, is known for his doggedness and is unlikely to backpedal on his overseas ambitions after being rebuffed by two overseas firms — bankrupt petrochemicals maker LyondellBasell and oil sands firm Value Creation.

A source tells us that Ambani now has his eyes set on the booming Marcellus Shale in the eastern United States, and wants to form a joint venture with Atlas Energy to develop the independent U.S. oil and gas firm’s operations in the gas project.

A deal could bring in more than $1 billion for Atlas, which will be a much smaller price than what Reliance was willing to pay for LyondellBasell, which was valued at about $14.5 billion by the Indian firm’s final offer. Lyondell rejected it saying the price was not high enough.

Is the media going overboard in its coverage of the Ambani feud?

The war of words between the billionaire Ambani brothers took an unexpected turn when younger sibling Anil offered an olive branch to elder brother Mukesh in a bid to resolve a feud over the split of the Reliance business empire in 2005.

The widespread coverage the Indian media has given to the squabble between the brothers has led to a debate on social networking sites such as Twitter, with some accusing news organisations of playing host to a reality show or soap opera that stars the Ambani family to boost ratings.

Prominent columnist Vir Sanghvi wrote through his Twitter account virsanghvi: “Do you think some network should plan a reality show on the Ambani battle? Or are they doing it already on the news?”

Ambani rivalry spills over at shareholder meeting

Anil Ambani on Tuesday used an annual shareholders’ meeting to lay into his older brother and the government for good measure, over the issue of gas pricing which is at the heart of the most recent spat between the fighting Ambani brothers.

Anil charged Reliance Industries, India’s top private-sector conglomerate run by estranged brother Mukesh, had used every trick in the book, and some outside the book, to feed its “greed”, and was firing from the shoulder of the oil ministry that he claimed was being “partisan”.

The 90-minute diatribe livened up what threatened to be an otherwise staid shareholders’ meeting, with accusations, pleas, emotions, tears and the inevitable invocations of the father, founder Dhirubhai Ambani, whose death helped bring the feud between the two brothers out in the open. All peppered with energetic cries of support from shareholders.

Jury still out on Indo-U.S. “unclear” deal

US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …US President Bush raises his glass for a toast with Indian Prime Minister Singh at an official dinner …You could be forgiven for thinking that the civilian nuclear deal with the United States is all about whether India holds early elections or not.

Every newspaper is speculating if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has staked his personal reputation on the deal, will resign to disassociate himself from an administration that failed to save a pact keenly watched by the world.

But are these the arguments India should be debating in the short-term or should we be discussing the real benefits and drawbacks of the deal?

Iran or the US? India’s delicate balancing act

The visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to India on Tuesday was a slightly low-key affair. But it throws up an interesting conundrum for the Indian government.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks on during his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi April 29, 2008. REUTERS/B MathurJust how close can New Delhi afford to be to Tehran before it seriously angers Washington. In the end, will India be forced to choose — Iranian gas or American friendship?

Ahmadinejad was here to promote plans for a $7.6 billion pipeline to bring Iranian gas to Pakistan and India.

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