Mumbai: Anil Ambani made a dramatic peace overture to Mukesh Ambani on Sunday after a series of public attacks that had heaped opprobrium on his estranged elder brother’s company Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) and alleged favouritism towards it by the oil ministry at the cost of national interest.
Seeking “renewed efforts” for reconciliation, after their split in 2005, Anil Ambani said in a statement that he hoped his offer of peace “will be reciprocated” with “a generous heart, a willing mind, and accommodating spirit to resolve issues”.
Also Read Statement by Reliance Industries
The dispute can be ended in weeks rather than months, the younger Ambani said, after a trip to the Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines.
“I sincerely believe that Mukesh bhai and I can, even at this late stage, sort out all our disagreements, in a constructive, cordial and conciliatory manner, if we both commit to getting this done,” Anil Ambani said. “The issues are only a handful, and the facts are well known. My judgement says that they can all be resolved in a matter of weeks, and will not require several months of discussions.”
In a statement, RIL said it hoped Anil Ambani’s statement was a “positive change”. The RIL response added, however, that “the dispute under litigation is not merely a family matter, as Shri Anil Ambani’s statement once again tries to make out to be”. The statement added that issues that arise from a decision of the Bombay high court “transcend any private differences between two brothers or two corporate entities, can now only be decisively resolved by a decision of the Highest Court”.
“Sadly, the conduct of R-ADAG (Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group) so far makes it difficult for RIL to believe that Shri Anil Ambani has had a real change of heart,” RIL said.
Anil Ambani said a reconciliation would be the perfect 75th year gift for their mother. “Throughout this very trying period, I have maintained the greatest of love, affection and respect for Mukesh bhai—as I have done since my birth,” he said. “There can be no better gift to my mother, Smt. Kokilaben Ambaniin her 75th year, and to the legacy of our beloved father, Shri Dhirubhai Ambani, the proud creator of the Reliance Group.”
Firms owned by Ambani brothers, who divided the Reliance Group founded by their late father Dhirubhai Ambani after years of simmering acrimony, are currently locked in a lawsuit in the Supreme Court over claims to 28 million standard cu. m of gas a day (mscmd) for 17 years at a price that is 44% lower than the government-set rate.
RIL refused gas to Anil Ambani’s fuel-marketing firm, Reliance Natural Resources Ltd.(RNRL), saying that it cannot give gas to anyone without prior government approval and that the so-called family “memorandum of understanding” was never approved by RIL’s board of directors.
RNRL has cried foul several times with the attacks becoming more pointed through a recent media campaign in which it ran front page advertisements claiming RIL would make super-normal profits of Rs50,000 crore while the exchequer gets a measly 1% share.
At RNRL’s annual general meeting with shareholders in July, the younger Ambani gave an impassioned speech accusing RIL of “corporate greed” with “no respect for sanctity of contracts” and “firing from the petroleum ministry’s shoulder to renege on its commitment” of supplying gas.
Sunday’s peace offer—RIL and RNRL have been advised twice before by two benches of Bombay high court to settle difference out of court—is the first concrete move towards reconciliation, given that a Supreme Court decision could be the final word on the issue. The apex court will be hearing arguments in the case from 20 October.
The younger Ambani also sought “divine inspiration and blessings to heal the wounds with” his elder brother.
Anil Ambani’s move comes after another of his companies, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, decided to take its government allotment of 0.54 mscmd of RIL gas from the Krishna-Godavari basin “under protest”. It had earlier refused to pay the “illegal” marketing margin over and above the government price of $4.2 per million British thermal units being charged by the oil and gas explorer.
RIL had retaliated, on 22 September, with a notice saying it will cut off the supply if the full payment was not made.