Mumbai/New Delhi: Anil Ambani’s Reliance ADA Group (R-Adag) on Friday blamed stock brokers for spreading “baseless sensational charges” against the group, as shares of its companies fell sharply for the second day this week.
The company said it had identified the brokers who circulated charges through emails, text messages and voice calls and sought regulatory investigation against them. It, however, did not name any of the brokers in the statement and declined to give any details when asked by Reuters.
Telecoms stocks have come under pressure over investor concerns over a widening corruption scandal involving the government and the private sector.
There is also concern that the telecoms ministry will force operators, including Vodafone Essar and Bharti Airtel, to pay more money for licences they already bought after the regulator said that they had paid too little for them.
Shares in Reliance Communications, India’s No. 2 mobile phone operator, dropped as much as 7.1% to an all-time low on Friday. They extended their losses to 38% this year in a Mumbai market down nearly 16%.
Reliance Communications posts earnings on Monday. Other group stocks, including road-builder Reliance Infrastructure and utility Reliance Power fell as much as 4.6% and 4.5%, respectively, while the benchmark index was down about 0.5% on Friday.
The stocks recouped some of their losses later. Reliance Communications and Reliance Infrastructure are the two worst performing stocks in the main index this year.
Reliance Communications, which had debt of $6.4 billion at the end of September, has seen its shares battered amid fierce competition and after it failed in efforts last year to sell a 26% stake in itself and to merge tower unit with a rival.
In a statement on Friday, R-Adag said it was seeking “punitive interim orders” against the brokers and that it was bringing the matter to the market regulator and police for seizure of electronic and dealing room records.
A R-Adag spokesman said the group had nothing more to comment beyond the statement issued on Friday.
A spokesman for the stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), did not respond to a call from Reuters.
Ambani blames rivals
Anil Ambani, an avid runner who is married to a former Bollywood actress, was ranked as the world’s 36th richest man by Forbes in 2010. His older brother Mukesh, who controls Reliance Industries, ranks fourth on the global rich list.
A ferocious sell down on Wednesday knocked $2.5 billion from the value of companies controlled by Anil, one of India’s highest-profile businessmen, whose group had then blamed rivals for spreading what it said were “baseless” rumours.
The group has not given further details of its accusations against rivals and brokers.
“The statements from R-Adag are not helping much. There are better opportunities elsewhere,” said Prakash Diwan, head of institutional business at Networth Stock Broking in Mumbai.
“Most businesses of R-Adag are in competitive industries. Some of their balance sheets are not very promising. In a situation like this and when the market is also weak otherwise, it is difficult for the stocks to recover,” he said.
A spate of corruption scandals has crippled the government, led to arrests of politicians and company executives, and rattled a market worried about where the next shoe may drop.
The government is estimated to have lost as much as $39 billion in revenue over a flawed 2G spectrum licence process and CBI have targeted two companies in particular, Unitech and Swan Telecom for getting favourable treatment in the licence process.
In November, a government audit report said Swan Telecom, which was later renamed Etisalat DB, was given a licence despite a unit of Reliance Communications holding over 10% of equity, which was a violation of rules.
Reliance Communications has said the group did not have any shareholding in Swan when licences were awarded in January 2008.
Late on Tuesday, authorities arrested Shahid Balwa, vice chairman of Etisalat DB, the venture between DB Group and Abu Dhabi’s Etisalat, over the 2G licence scandal.
Shares in one of India’s biggest real estate firms, DB Realty, where Balwa is managing director, fell 8.4% on Friday, extending their losses to 17% this week.
“When the overall sentiment is vulnerable, the stocks on which there are doubts, are likely to stay under pressure,” said Arun Kejriwal, director of research firm KRIS.
No. 2 listed property developer Unitech dropped as much as 5%. The company’s telecoms joint venture partner is Norway’s Telenor. Etisalat, Unitech and Reliance have denied any wrongdoing.