Reliance CEO Mukesh Ambani Said to Put SoftBank on Waiting List for Retail Stakes

Investor demand for Reliance’s retail business is so strong that Carlyle and SoftBank are among those that have been put onto a waiting list, according to people familiar with the matter.
Carlyle and SoftBank have recently expressed interest in investing in Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Retail, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. Reliance has asked the two companies to wait on the sideline since the Indian conglomerate is already in advanced talks with other financial investors, the people said.

Ambani is tapping the backers of his digital services business, which has secured $20 billion (roughly Rs. 1,47,384 crores) in recent months, as he seeks funding for Reliance Retail. Silver Lake, an investor in Jio, last week agreed to chip in $1 billion (roughly Rs. 7,489 crores). Other Jio investors, including private equity funds KKR and L Catterton, are also considering investing, Bloomberg News has reported.

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, which is a Jio investor as well, is weighing an investment of about $750 million (roughly Rs. 5,507 crores) in Reliance Retail, the people said. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund are also mulling investments, one of the people said.

The strong response from Jio’s financial investors means there’s not enough for others. Reliance plans to sell about a 10 percent stake in Reliance Retail to financial investors and almost all the $5.7 billion (roughly Rs. 41,985 crores) worth of shares have been taken up, the people said.

The largest allocation is reserved for Amazon, Bloomberg News reported last week. Ambani is offering to sell a roughly $20 billion (roughly Rs. 1,47,384 crores) stake in the retail business to the US tech giant, which could be equivalent to as much as a 40 percent holding. A deal, if successful, would be the biggest ever in India as well as for Amazon, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Potential investors including Carlyle and SoftBank could still get their hands on Reliance Retail shares should others cut their commitments, the people said. Negotiations are ongoing and could still be delayed or fall apart, the people said.

Representatives for Reliance, Carlyle, SoftBank, ADIA and Mubadala declined to comment, while a representatives for PIF didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ambani has identified technology and retail as future growth areas in a pivot away from the energy businesses he inherited from his father, who died in 2002. Retail is the next frontier for the 63-year-old Indian tycoon, whose ambitions include creating a home-grown e-commerce giant like China’s Alibaba.

– With assistance from Matthew Martin and Pavel Alpeyev.

© 2020 Bloomberg LP

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