Mumbai, Nov. 22 (NNN): chairman of India's Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, on Monday flatly denied any family dispute over the ownership of the country's largest private company.
"Obviously, it was an attempt to build a sensational story around the phrase 'ownership issues', leading to a spate of speculations and misrepresentation," he added.
"On my return last evening from the United States, I was shocked to find that my response to a question pertaining to the way our businesses are going to go in the future has been torn out of context. Obviously, it was an attempt to build a sensational story around the phrase 'ownership issues' leading to a spate of speculations and misrepresentation," said Mukesh Ambani.
"I am sensitive to the concerns that would have naturally arisen in the minds of our shareholders, various stakeholders and numerous well-wishers at the media blitz during the last few days.
It is necessary to remove confusion caused by deliberate misinterpretation or genuine misunderstanding. Therefore, I would like to set the record straight," he said.
"As I was leaving a function, a TV journalist said: 'There have been a lot of rumours about the Reliance group and the way the businesses are going to go in the future.' In response I made two points, namely, that the question itself, does not recognise that 'Reliance is one of the strongest, professionally managed company,' and that 'there are other issues, which are ownership issues, those are in the private domain,'" said Ambani in the statement.
"This question-answer context makes it clear that I was responding to the query about the future businesses," he said.
"It is well known that in the process of its growth and expansion, Reliance is engaged in diversification, acquisition of running businesses and creation of new assets," said Mukesh Ambani.
"In such a rapid growth phase all big companies have to deal with several issues concerning corporate ownership of future initiatives. Reliance is no exception. I will like to restate that all such ownership issues are in the private domain. Placed in the context of the question put to me, it is obvious that my reply has nothing to do with the family ownership in Reliance," Ambani clarified.
"I will also like to take this opportunity to strongly deplore some totally unjustified and tendentious comments in a section of the media about our father Dhirubhai Ambani."
"Reliance is an eloquent testimony of Dhirubhai's farsighted vision, unflinching dynamism, and unparalleled wisdom. In keeping with the worldwide trend of transformation of family owned businesses, Dhirubhai took, within his lifetime, all necessary steps to separate ownership from management and made Reliance a world-class professionally managed company."
"With his extraordinary foresight, he has also settled all ownership issues pertaining to Reliance within his lifetime. I wish to assure all stakeholders that I am committed to uphold the steps taken by him and that the foundation of Reliance is and will remain very, very strong.
"I hope all speculation on this issue will come to rest with this clarification."
There has been widespread speculation in India's business press that he wants to take control of part of the group.
On Monday, Mukesh Ambani insisted that his father, group founder Dhirubhai Ambani, had settled all ownership issues before his death and that his comment was taken out of context.
Dhirubhai Ambani is thought to have died without a will, although this has not been confirmed by the family.
Shares in Reliance had fallen 3.3% on Friday, their biggest drop in three months, but recovered on Monday to end up more than 1% at Rs 532.8.
Rumours of a quarrel between the two brothers at the head of the company came to a head last week when Mukesh Ambani, 47, said there were "ownership issues" with his younger brother, Anil, aged 45.
"So while there are ownership issues, these are in [the] private domain," he added.
His brother Anil Ambani is vice-chairman of Reliance Industries and heads Reliance Energy, which supplies power to New Delhi and Mumbai.
In a television interview last week Mukesh Ambani said: "Reliance is one of the strongest professionally managed companies that attracts huge talent and has moved beyond any one, two or three individuals, including myself.
Meanwhile, the group on Monday said the ongoing 'ownership' controversy will be resolved soon to the satisfaction of all concerned.
"The controversy (ownership) will be resolved to the satisfaction of shareholders and the country in the next few weeks," a Reliance spokesperson said when asked about the ownership issue of the Rs 80,000 crore (Rs 800 billion) Ambani empire.
"Mukesh Ambani was made successor by late Dhirubhai Ambani," the spokesperson said when asked whether Dhirubahi Ambani had left any will.
"From that moment he is committed to realising Dhirubhai's dream," he said.
The two sisters -- Deepti Salgaoncar and Neena Kothari -- who were believed to have come to Mumbai to attend the family meeting have left.
Anil Ambani could not be contacted for his comments on the ongoing controversy.
"Well there are issues which are ownership issues. These are in the private domain, but as far as Reliance is concerned, it is a very, very strong professional company," Mukesh Ambani said.
Reliance is India's largest private company with an annual turnover of about Rs 80,000 crore and has presence in various sectors including oil refinery, petrochemicals, power and telecommunications.
As per the information of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the promoters (Ambanis) hold 46.67 per cent of the stake in Reliance Industries Ltd, while 13.48 per cent is held by the public and FIIs own 22.85 per cent equity.
As per the work allocation, Mukesh looks after oil, petrochemicals and infocomm, while younger brother Anil looks after power, besides Reliance Capital.
Reliance, whose annual turnover is Rs 800bn ($17.7bn), spans the oil, petrochemical and telecoms sectors.
The Ambani family, which controls 47% of Reliance, has denied any split. According to reports the family was due to meet later in the day to discuss the issue.
Reliance operates India's largest petroleum refinery and produces 12 million tons a year of petrochemicals. It owns 45% of Reliance Infocomm, India's biggest cellular phone company, and half of Reliance Energy.