Mukesh Ambani on shopping binge; Reliance buys into 23 firms in 3 years

Mukesh Ambani on shopping binge; Reliance buys into 23 firms in 3 years

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries and subsidiaries bought stakes in seven firms in 2018; nine in 2019; and five this year so far; four more are in the pipeline for the year 2020

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries Ltd Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries Ltd

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of India's biggest business house Reliance Industries Ltd, not only signed big billion deals but also indulged in a big start-up buying spree in the past three years, putting at least 23 companies in his cart. These firms work across varied fields -- from content production houses to music app to cable networks to online medicine space.

The year 2017

In 2017, RIL acquired 25 per cent stake in Balaji Telefilms, one of the largest content production houses in Asia and the Middle East, which delivers Hindi and regional content for Rs 413 crore. The deal gave RIL access to Balaji Telefilms' content for use by Reliance Jio to give it an edge over the rivals.

RIL raked in 7 deals in 2018

Seven companies came on board with the RIL subsidiaries in 2018, including motion picture company Eros International (5 per cent stake for $48.75 million); apparel company Genesis Luxury Fashion (5.3 per cent stake for Rs 35.39 crore); music app Saavn streaming app ($100 million for partial stake); edtech start-up Embibe (73 per cent for $180 million); apparel firm Future 101 Design (12.5 per cent for Rs 9.5 crore); cable networks Den Networks and Hathway (58.92 per cent and 51.34 per cent, respectively); and US-based telecom solution provider Radisys Corp (100 per cent stake).

9 start-ups joined RIL in 2019

The year 2019 brought maximum of nine start-ups in the Reliance fold. RIL-controlled Reliance Industrial Investment and Holdings (RIIHL) bought majority stakes in two companies - logistics firm Grab A Grub Services and software company C-Square Info Solutions - for over Rs 146 crore in March 2019.

Language technology solutions company Reverie also entered a strategic partnership with RIL by selling a majority stake for Rs 190 crore in April 2019. British toymaker Hamleys Global Holdings sold 100 per cent stake to RIL subsidiary Reliance Brands for GBP 67.96 million in July 2019. In the same month, Reliance Jio acquired AI-firm Haptik for Rs 700 crore. Reliance acquired 80-85 per cent of deep-tech start-up Tesseract in August 2019 for Rs 10.25 crore.

The company also bought a further 2.5 per cent stake in Future 101 that year, increasing its shareholding to 17.5 per cent. Other start-ups that attracted RIL investment in that year included e-commerce start-up Fynd (87.6 per cent for Rs 295.25 crore); SaaS solutions company NowFloats (85 per cent stake for Rs 141.63 crore); robotics and AI solutions firm Asteria Aerospace (51 per cent for Rs 23.12 crore).

RIL grabs stakes in 2 start-ups in 2020

In 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc for businesses across the world, the RIL continues to grab stakes in ambitious start-ups. The company has acquired five firms so far this year, with e-pharmacy start-up Netmeds being the most recent one.

Besides, the RIL increased its shareholding in Saavn to 94.4 per cent in February; bought 37.7 per cent stake in Alok Industries Limited under the insolvency process for Rs 250 crore; acquired 100 per of Kannan Departmental Store for Rs 152.5 crore; grabbed 17.37 per cent stake in passenger transit services tech firm SkyTran Inc; and acquired majority stake Netmeds for Rs 620 crore on August 18.

Bigger deals on the way

At least four other investment deals are in the pipeline this year, with the mega-merger deals with Future Retail and investment in now banned Chinese social media giant TikTok India being the prominent ones.

Kishore Biyani-led Future Enterprises board could give the final approval for the sale of the group's retail business to Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Retail on August 29. The Reliance Retail-Future Group all-cash deal is supposed to be worth Rs 29,000-Rs 30,000 crore.

Amid controversy around Chinese social media giant TikTok, its owner ByteDance is seeking investment from RIL to financially back its India business. Both the companies started discussions in July and the final decision is yet to be taken.

Milkbasket, which earlier held discussions with Amazon and Bigbasket, is also negotiating its valuation and talks with RIL are at an advanced stage. RIL is planning to acquire online furniture brand Urban Ladder, talks with whom are at an advanced stage.

Deals galore

RIL has inked multi-billion deals for its core businesses in the past two years. The company sold around 33 per cent stake in Mukesh Ambani's crown jewel, Jio Platforms Ltd to global tech giants, including the likes of Facebook and Google. The conglomerate is also in talks with oil giant Saudi Aramco, the world's biggest company in terms of market capitalisation, for a possible 20 per cent stake sale in its petrochemical business for Rs 1.14 lakh crore. Ambani is also working on the sale of 49 per cent stake in Jio-BP fuel retailing business to British oil giant BP plc for Rs 7,000 crore.

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