Reliance Industries, owned by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, has wiped off its massive $21-billion, or Rs 161,035 crore, debt in less than two months – and in the middle of a global pandemic. Ambani had publicly announced the goal to make RIL debt-free during the company’s annual general meeting in August last year. The aim was to get there by March 31, 2021.
The major chunk of the money to clear debt came from selling stakes in RIL’s young telecom and internet venture, Jio Platforms. Since April 22, Jio Platforms has raised Rs 115,693.95 crore from 10 investors, including Facebook.
In total, RIL has sold off a 24.7% stake in Jio Platforms through what it says is “the largest uninterrupted fundraising by a company anywhere in the world.”
Record-breaking rights issue
RIL raised Rs 53,124.20 crore from a rights issue, the first in three decades by the company. A rights issue refers to the company’s decision to invite existing shareholders to purchase additional new shares.
As part of the rights issue, existing shareholders picked up one new share for every 15 they own for Rs 1,257 apiece – a 14% discount on the closing price on April 30. The rights issue, which was open between May 20 and June 3 was subscribed 1.59 times, becoming the largest-ever in India and the biggest in the world by a non-financial entity in the last 10 years.
“The combined capital raised has no precedence globally in such a short time. Both of these are also unprecedented in Indian corporate history and have set new benchmarks. This is even more remarkable that this was achieved amidst a global lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” RIL said in a statement.
BP to the rescue
British oil and gas major, BP, also helped RIL clear its debt. On May 1, the Indian government approved a deal under which BP will invest Rs 7,000 crore in RIL’s fuel retail arm, Reliance Petroleum. The investment was announced in August 2019. Part of the funds will be used to set up a country-wide service station network and aviation fuel marketing business, which will operate under the Jio-BP brand.
A joint venture with British oil and gas major, BP, also helped RIL clear its debt.
This may not be the end of RIL’s fundraising spree, Ambani hinted in a statement today. “We have received strong interest from strategic and financial investors in our consumer businesses, Jio and Reliance Retail,” he said. “We will induct leading global partners in these businesses in the next few quarters.”
Ambani also shared a new ambition to list Jio and Reliance Retail on stock exchanges in the next five years. Given its track record, it would hardly be a surprise if that happens much sooner.
This article first appeared on Quartz.