Pressure Builds on Feuding Ambani Brothers

War-weary family members and well-wishers are seeing the adverse Bombay High Court judgement on the KG basin natural gas as an opportunity for the Brothers Ambani to mend fences, and are exerting pressure on the Reliance Industries management to explore an amicable out-of-court settlement with the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Natural Resources (RNRL).

The Anil Ambani Group, however, is firm in its view that all that needs to happen is that the judgement be enforced. On Thursday morning, the group's chairman Anil Ambani met Union petroleum minister Murli Deora in Mumbai. And in the evening, the younger Ambani met the petroleum secretary, an indication of the importance of the government's role in resolving the issue. Both meetings were reported first by ET NOW.

Mr. Deora, who declined to discuss the meeting, said the national interest would be kept in mind while taking any decision. Two members of the RIL board told ET NOW that post-the HC judgement, they will talk to RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani asking him to settle the gas dispute with Anil. "I will advise him (Mukesh Ambani) to shake hands as the liabilities, besides the costs of fighting protracted legal battles, are too high," one director said.

The HC has ordered the company to sell gas to RNRL at $2.34 per unit as against the $4.20 set by the government.

The director said, as the Bombay HC judgement has mentioned RIL's board meetings which had endorsed the family MoU soon after the brothers split in 2005, it will have to discuss the HC judgement in a full board meeting. He added that the corporate governance panel of India's largest company would look at the judgement in order to understand its shareholder implication.

When contacted, an RIL spokesperson denied that there was any pressure on the company to negotiate with RNRL. "We are examining the total implication of the judgment and will await legal advice for our future course," the spokesperson said. A senior R-ADAG official dismissed the possibility of his group being open to an out-of-court settlement.

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