Why Anil Ambani's Richer Despite $519 Million Telecom Rout

Updated on
  • Tycoon’s wealth rose $82 million to $2.7 billion in 2017
  • Financial services unit added the biggest chunk to net worth

Anil Ambani speaks at shareholders' meeting in Mumbai.

Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg

Reliance Communications Ltd.’s plunge has yet to drag down the fortune of its Chairman Anil Ambani.

The 57-year-old tycoon’s net worth has inched up this year, even as shares of his wireless unit have plummeted 39 percent, wiping 33.4 billion rupees ($519 million) from its market value. At the same time, the Reliance Group founder’s wealth has swelled by about $82 million to $2.7 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.

Gains from Reliance Group’s financial services arm Reliance Capital Ltd. and Reliance Power Ltd. have outstripped the erosion at a telecom unit battered by investors questioning its creditworthiness. The turbulence at Rcom, as the phone unit is known, has come at a time when the group’s Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. is planning to list a trust with some road assets and its Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd. business is working toward becoming a new profit pillar by winning weapons contracts.

A Reliance Group spokesman didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Rcom’s lenders have agreed to a seven-month moratorium on its debt obligations, giving the company time until December to sell its towers to Canadian asset manager Brookfield Infrastructure Group and merge the wireless business with Aircel Ltd., Ambani said at a briefing on Friday in Mumbai. The proceeds for these transactions will help the company reduce debt by 60 percent, he said.

Rcom earlier fell 0.5 percent to 20.65 rupees on Friday and is this year’s worst-performing stock on the S&P BSE 200 Index.

The Ambani family conglomerate entered the telecom industry in 2002 before a dispute led the group to divide assets in 2005 between Anil and older brother Mukesh, now India’s richest person. Reliance Communications -- which went to Anil -- has struggled in an increasingly competitive market, particularly after Mukesh’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. stormed into the market last year with offers of free services.

— With assistance by Ameya Karve

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