Business News/ Companies / Reliance hires Rothschild banker as M&A head: sources

Mumbai: Reliance Industries , India’s largest listed firm, has hired a senior banker from Rothschild in India to head its in-house acquisition team, sources said on Wednesday, as the energy major looks to bolster its presence in key businesses.

Navin Wadhwani is joining Reliance, India’s largest listed firm, from Rothschild, where he was a managing director in the investment banking division, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

A Reliance spokesman declined to comment, while Rothschild was not immediately available to comment.

Reliance, controlled by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, the world’s ninth-richest man, has interests in refining, oil and gas exploration, petrochemicals and retail, and has been looking to expand into telecom and financial services.

“It’s a clear indication that the company is seriously looking at M&A to grow its businesses," said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, head of research at SMC Global, referring to the hiring.

“The company has huge cash balance and the BP deal has also bolstered their cash position. The market has been expecting them to do a multi-billion dollar acquisition for some time," he said.

In February, Reliance agreed to sell a stake in 23 of its oil and gas blocks, including some in the KG basin, to BP in a $7.2 billion deal.

Analysts have said the deal would help Reliance expand its deepsea exploration and development off India’s east coast, and also give it financial muscle to buy shale gas assets in the United States.

As of 31 March, Reliance’s cash and cash equivalents were at $9.5 billion.

In June, Reliance said it would buy Bharti Enterprises’ stakes in two insurance joint ventures with France’s AXA to build on moves beyond its core energy business.

It bought telecoms business Infotel Broadband in a $1 billion deal in 2010 and in August 2010, it bought a stake in hotel chain EIH Ltd , which runs the luxury Oberoi and Trident hotels.

Reliance struck three shale gas joint ventures in the United States last year, including a $1.7 billion deal with Atlas Energy to own 40% of its Marcellus Shale operations in the eastern United States

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Updated: 07 Sep 2011, 06:34 PM IST
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