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The $41 billion wealth gap that divides India’s richest brothers

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Mumbai :Over the past year, the fortunes of the two brothers at the helm of India’s wealthiest dynasty have grown apart — to more than $40 billion apart.

Elder sibling Mukesh Ambani, 61, toppled China’s Jack Ma as Asia’s richest man, after driving a telecommunications revolution in India that propelled his petrochemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. into the $100 billion club. His personal fortune has swelled to $43.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, $5.2 billion ahead of Ma and just ahead of Microsoft Corp.’s former chief, Steve Ballmer.

Meanwhile Anil Ambani, two years his junior, has had a difficult year, with some of his businesses suffering legal and liquidity challenges that roiled stocks, cutting his personal fortune by almost half to $1.5 billion, according to the index.

 

Neither the brothers nor their groups responded to questions for this story regarding their wealth or business operations.

The tale of the two brothers’ diverging fortunes began 16 years ago, when their rags-to-riches father Dhirubhai Ambani, whose life inspired a Bollywood film, died of a stroke without leaving a will. The industrialist, who started out as a gas-station attendant in Yemen, had built a vast business empire, financing massive factories by selling so many shares to small investors that stockholder meetings had to be held in a football stadium.

A feud between his two sons following their father’s death dogged the group until their mother, Kokilaben, stepped in during 2005 and brokered a truce. Mukesh got control of the flagship oil refining and petrochemicals, while Anil got the newer businesses such as power generation and financial services. He also took over the telecoms unit, which under Mukesh had expanded aggressively by bundling phones with mobile connections at throwaway prices.

At the time, the wireless division seemed to give Anil some of the more promising opportunities. Crude oil prices had climbed to a then-record price of more than $60 a barrel in 2005, sparking concern that refiners’ margins may get eroded. India’s burgeoning mobile-phone market was hailed as the future.

A non-compete clause between the brothers kept Mukesh out of that arena until the agreement was scrapped in 2010. Mukesh quickly returned, pumping in more than 2.5 trillion rupees ($34 billion) over the next seven years to build a speedier 4G wireless network for his Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

“It was a very, very big bet,” said James Crabtree, a professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore and author of the book “ The Billionaire Raj,” which examined wealth inequality in India. Jio also gave Mukesh the chance to forge his own legacy beyond the shadow of the businesses he had inherited, he said. “Jio in that sense was an all-in bet.”

It took a long time to pay off. Reliance’s shares lagged S&P BSE Sensex index for most of the past decade as investors watched Mukesh pour money into his telecom network with little sign of a return at first.

When it came in 2016, the impact was dramatic. By July this year, less than two years after starting the service, Jio had signed up 227 million users and was making a profit. Rivals were bleeding as Mukesh’s upstart embarked on a devastating price war, offering monthly plans for as little as $2.

“Reliance’s strategy to diversify beyond the energy sector was the biggest game changer,” said Sanjiv Bhasin, executive vice president at India Infoline Ltd. “Mukesh Ambani had the 10-year vision to foresee that data will be the next gold and he invested heavily.”

What financed that investment was Dhirubhai’s old oil and petrochemicals business, which, expanded by Mukesh, still accounts for 90 percent of Reliance’s profit. Cash flow from the business, together with a blue-chip rating gave Reliance Industries access to a large pool of cheap capital. “Mukesh Ambani has very adroitly used this competitive advantage,” said Saurabh Mukherjea, founder of Marcellus Investment Managers.


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Sensex sheds 298.82 to close at 38,811; Nifty shrinks to 11,650

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Mumbai: The benchmark BSE Sensex erased early gains to end 299 points lower Thursday as investors booked profits after stocks soared to record highs after BJP’s strong showing in the Lok Sabha polls.

Sensex and NSE Nifty went on to record highs even as Lok Sabha election results showed that PM Modi-led NDA leading on over 300 seats. However after the euphoria during the morning session, Sensex shed 298.82 to close at 38,811 and Nifty shrank to 11,650 on the closing bell.

During the day, the Sensex hit the 40,000 mark while the Nifty crossed the 12,000-level for the first time ever. However, the indices succumbed to profit booking towards the fag-end of the session.

 

The 30-share Sensex tumbled 298.82 points, or 0.76 per cent, to close at 38,811.39. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty settled 80.85 points, or 0.69 per cent, lower at 11,657.05.

IndusInd Bank was the biggest gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying 5.23 per cent, followed by Hero MotoCorp, Coal India, Yes Bank, PowerGrid, ICICI Bank, HCL Tech, L&T, Kotak Bank and Bharti Airtel, rising up to 1.56 per cent. On the other hand, Vedanta, ITC, Tata Motors, HDFC twins, Bajaj Finance, Sun Pharma, Tata Steel, TCS, ONGC and Infosys fell up to 5.53 per cent.

Riding on a massive Modi wave sweeping through most parts of India, the BJP was set to return to power Thursday as it led in 298 seats while the Congress trailed far behind with 52, according to trends released by the Election Commission for all 542 seats that went to polls.

“Markets were initially enthused to see the election results falling in line with the exit polls. However, the run up to the D-day was so sharp that it turned out to be a sell on news phenomenon,” said Devang Mehta, Head – Equity Advisory, Centrum Wealth Management.

Participants would now be keen to know the future course of action for bringing the economy back on track, solution to the liquidity situation, the union budget, onset and progress of monsoon in June and most importantly the earnings trajectory, he added.

According to traders, weak cues from other global markets and a depreciating rupee also weighed on investor sentiment. The rupee depreciated 37 paise to 70.04 against the US dollar in afternoon trade. Globally, bourses in Asia ended in the red.

Indices in Europe were also trading on a negative note in early deals. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was trading 1.79 per cent lower at USD 69.72 per barrel.

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Silver up on increased offtake; gold steady

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi: Silver prices rallied by Rs 200 to Rs 37,400 per kg in the national capital on Thursday, while gold held steady, according to the All India Sarafa Association.

Traders said silver prices rose on pick-up in offtake by industrial units and coin makers at the local spot market. Globally, spot gold was trading marginally higher at USD 1,276 an ounce, while silver was slightly up at USD 14.53 an ounce in New York.

In the national capital, gold of 99.9 per cent and 99.5 per cent purity dropped by Rs 10 each to Rs 32,670 per ten 10 gram and Rs 32,500 per 10 gram. Sovereign gold, however, held steady at Rs 26,500 per eight gram.

 

Silver ready surged Rs 200 to Rs 37,400 per kg, while weekly-based delivery fell by Rs 66 to Rs 36,234 per kg. Silver coins held flat at Rs 79,000 for buying and Rs 80,000 for selling of 100 pieces.

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India PC mkt declines 8.3 per cent to 2.15 mn units in Jan-Mar qarter

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New Delhi: Personal Computer (PC) shipment in India fell by 8.3 per cent in the January-March quarter of 2019 to 2.15 million units, registering a year-on-year decline for the third consecutive quarter, according to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

Besides, big commercial deals, market remained weak due to weak consumer demand, high inventory from previous quarters, and supply issues for Intel chips.

Shipments in the consumer segment saw a 26.5 per cent dip in the said quarter compared to the year-ago period. The commercial PC market saw a total shipment of 1.35 million units in the said quarter, a growth of 7.3 per cent over last year.

 

“The announcement of central elections on March 10, 2019 resulted in the model code of conduct coming into immediate effect further resulting in a delay in execution of government projects and impacting the commercial segment,” IDC said in a statement.

However, IDC expects the overall PC market in India to witness a growth in the second quarter. The commercial market is expected to pick up post new government formation in May, while the consumer market is expected to pick up largely driven by back to school campaign by vendors and online sales.

HP maintained its leadership position with an overall market share of 28.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, followed by Dell (25.9 per cent), Lenovo (25.2 per cent) and Acer (11.7 per cent).

The notebook PC (laptop) category accounted for 61.4 per cent of the shipment and witnessed a 9.8 per cent year-on-year decline.

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