The ambitions of Anil Ambani seem limitless. Providing the Indian subcontinent with power, financial services and telecoms hasn’t satisfied Ambani, who is estimated to be worth more than $40 billion (Rs1.7 trillion), according to Forbes. He’s trying to add Africa to the mix. His Reliance Communications Ltd is in talks to take over the larger South African mobile operator MTN Group Ltd. Now, he is close to an agreement to bankroll Steven Spielberg’s movies according to The Wall Street Journal. Ambani may be spreading himself thin.
Running one of the Indian ventures alone would strain most mortals. The rapidly growing country’s demand for power appears insatiable. A huge percentage of the population doesn’t have a bank account, let alone a credit card. And cell phone growth is astounding. The Indian government estimates the market will grow by about 400 million new subscribers over the next four years.
Other affairs fill Ambani’s plate. His holding company plans initial public offerings of its telecom towers business. Meanwhile, the takeover of MTN has other challenges. His slightly richer and equally ambitious brother, Mukesh Ambani, seeks to block the takeover. He claims first right of refusal as a result of terms in the acrimonious agreement to split the Ambani family empire in 2005.
Perhaps an agreement with Spielberg is merely a pleasant diversion—an equity stake of up to $600 million is little more than a rounding error for Ambani. Yet it could take a significant chunk of his time.
Hollywood egos are equally large and need massaging. After all, Spielberg’s company, DreamWorks SKG, was only sold to Viacom in 2006. For someone as stretched as Ambani, time is the one thing he doesn’t have much of.