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Reliance Industries’ proposed acquisition of Bharti Group’s majority stake in two separate general and life insurance ventures with French partner AXA has fallen through, the company has disclosed to the Bombay Stock Exchange after market hours on Friday.
The firm did not give details but said negotiations for the transaction were jointly terminated as both parties had been “unable to reach agreement on the long-term vision and joint governance of the ventures.”
The deal, supposed to mark the end of telecom czar Sunil Mittal’s short tryst with financial services business, now entails that Bharti will have to find another local buyer for its holding. Existing norms restrict foreign partners in the insurance sector from owning more than 26 per cent in the joint venture.
The proposed deal also meant that for the first time, billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani (who has recently announced the group’s entry into financial services business by entering into a venture with DE Shaw) would be pitched in direct competition with younger brother Anil Ambani’s ADA Group’s business interests. ADA Group already runs its own life and general insurance ventures under Reliance Capital.
According to earlier announcement, Bharti Enterprises, privately held group arm of the Mittals, was to sell 74 per cent stake each in Bharti AXA Life Insurance Co and Bharti AXA General Insurance Co to Reliance Industries and its associate firm Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd.
Although the valuation of the deal was not disclosed, media reports had earlier speculated that Reliance was looking to pick the stake in the life insurance JV alone for around Rs 3,000 crore ($666 million) while Bharti was eyeing twice the amount or around $1.3 billion. The final deal could have been struck within the range.
For the year ended March 2011, Bharti AXA Life Insurance collected premium of Rs 790 crore ($175 million) while Bharti AXA General Insurance scooped gross direct premium of Rs 550 crore ($122 million).
“This transaction is subject to negotiation and entering into legally binding agreements between Reliance Industries, Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd and AXA, and obtaining necessary approvals from IRDA and other relevant approvals,” Reliance Industries had stated in a previous disclosure.
Reliance Industries’ scrip lost 2.6 per cent to close at Rs 754 a share in a weak Mumbai market on Friday. Reliance Industrial Infra stock rose 0.88 per cent on the BSE.
Reliance Industries and its associate were to pick 57 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, in each of the insurance companies and would become majority partner with AXA in India. While AXA was to retain its current 26 per cent stake and continue to manage the operations of both joint ventures, the deal would have allowed it to acquire from Reliance up to 24 per cent shareholding in both the insurance companies in accordance with the applicable regulations as and when the FDI regulations permit such a holding by AXA.
BY TEAM VCC