Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. is planning to sell a roughly 20 billion US dollars stake in its retail business to Amazon.com Inc, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Amazon has held discussions about investing in the conglomerate’s Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd. unit and has expressed interest in negotiating a potential transaction, the person added. Mumbai-based Reliance Industries is willing to sell as much as a 40 percent stake in the subsidiary to Amazon, the person said, asking not to be identified because the privacy of the information.
If successful in agreeing on a deal, this would not only create a retail behemoth in India but it will also turn Jeff Bezos and Asia’s richest man from rivals into allies in one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world. At20 billion US dollars, the deal would be the biggest ever in India as well as for Amazon, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Shares of Reliance Industries extended gains and touched an all-time high after the same Bloomberg News story. The stock surged 4.2 percent as of 12:08 p.m. in Mumbai. The Indian rupee rose as much as 0.5 percent to 73.1588 per dollar because of the expectations of more capital inflows.
In India, where a lot of people still shop in tiny street-corner stores, the deal could be Amazon’s way of acknowledging that it needs a locally-entrenched partner with a strong local market presence. For Amazon, Reliance would provide a brick-and-mortar component to its ambitions in a country where online purchasing still accounts for a minuscule share of the estimated 1 trillion US dollar retail market.
Amazon hasn’t made any final decision on the size of its potential investment, and talks could still fall apart, the person said but a representative for Amazon declined to comment.
“As a policy, we do not comment on media speculation and rumours," a Reliance spokesman said in an emailed response to Bloomberg News. “Our company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis. We have made and will continue to make necessary disclosures in compliance with our obligations."
A deal with Amazon would give further credence to Ambani’s ambitions to create an e-commerce giant for India akin to China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Reliance Retail already lured about 1 billion US dollars from Silver Lake Partners, while U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co. is in advanced talks to invest at least $1 billion, and L Catterton is also considering of the possibility of investing, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.
The investment in Ambani’s retail ventures comes after he raised 20 billion US dollars selling stakes in his technology venture Jio Platforms Ltd. to investors including Facebook Inc. and Google. The billionaire appears to be seeking to repeat that fundraising strategy with his retail business too.
Reliance Retail a unit of the energy-to-telecommunications conglomerate Reliance Industries runs supermarkets, India’s largest consumer electronics chain store, a cash and carry wholesaler, fast-fashion outlets and an online grocery store called JioMart. It reported 1.63 trillion rupees (22 billion US dollars) in revenue in the year through March 2020 and the unit operates almost 12,000 stores in nearly 7,000 towns.