Home Business Reliance says it has become a net debt-free firm ahead of schedule

Reliance says it has become a net debt-free firm ahead of schedule

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Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) on Friday declared itself net debt-free after a fund-raising spree that saw it garner ₹1.75 trillion—most of it within a span of less than two months—from marquee investors and a sale of shares to existing stockholders.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance raised ₹1.15 trillion through a 24.71% stake sale in digital assets subsidiary Jio Platforms Ltd to nearly a dozen investors, including Facebook Inc. Reliance also raised ₹53,124 crore through a sale of shares to existing investors. In addition, it sold a 49% stake in its fuel retail business to BP Plc for ₹7,000 crore.

The stunning speed and size of the fund-raising has helped Reliance achieve the net debt-free status before the March deadline set for the company by Ambani, Asia’s richest man. The achievement is all the more creditable given other firms are struggling to raise funds amid the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that Reliance’s earlier plan to raise $15 billion through a stake sale in its energy business to Saudi Aramco was upended by a sudden collapse in crude prices. The company had a net debt of ₹1.61 trillion as on 31 March.

“I have fulfilled my promise to shareholders by making Reliance net debt-free much before our original schedule of 31 March,” chairman and managing director Ambani said in a statement on Friday.

At Reliance’s 42nd annual general meeting last August, Ambani pledged to make the company net debt-free by 31 March 2021. Ambani also plans to list Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail in the next five years.

Reliance’s shares surged to a record ₹1,738.95 and the company became the first in India to be valued at ₹11.52 trillion. The shares have doubled in the past three months.

Apart from Facebook, the list of investors in Jio Platforms includes six private equity entities—General Atlantic, TPG, KKR, Silver Lake, L Catterton, Vista Equity Partners—and three sovereign funds: Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Mubadala Investment Co. and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

To be sure, adjusting for vendor financing, deferred spectrum payments and other liabilities, RIL’s net debt could be as high as ₹3.2 trillion, according to Edelweiss Securities.

“Adjusted net debt is much higher at ₹3.2 trillion. To repay this, Reliance will need to tap into its massive divestment pipeline of O2C (oil to chemicals business) assets ( ₹1 trillion-plus) and fibre InvIT ( ₹1.2 trillion). Progress on this front would therefore continue to allay market concerns around leverage,” said Edelweiss Securities in its report dated 27 May.

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