Billionaire Ambani loses RM29.4b as oil sinks Reliance shares

The slide also shaved down Ambani’s wealth to about RM298.2b, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index

MUMBAI • Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, lost almost US$7 billion (RM29.4 billion) from his net worth as Reliance Industries Ltd’s shares tumbled the most in over seven months following a drop in quarterly profit.

The stock of India’s most-valuable company closed 8.6% lower in Mumbai yesterday, slipping the most since March 23. It was the day’s worst performer on the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex, which rose 0.4%. The slide also shaved down Ambani’s wealth to about US$71 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Pandemic Hits Fuel Demand

The refining-to-retail conglomerate reported a 15% decline in quarterly profit to 95.7 billion rupees (RM5.74 billion) late last Friday, as the coronavirus pandemic hit fuel demand. Revenue fell 24% to 1.16 trillion rupees.

Reliance’s oil refining unit has suffered a plunge in demand for transportation fuels, with Covid- 19 forcing people to stay home. The conglomerate is in the middle of a transformation led by Ambani,

63, as he looks to turn the oil- and-petrochemicals giant into a technology and digital services company by bolstering its telecommunication and e-commerce businesses.

Reduce Dependence

The slip in earnings backs Ambani’s strategy and highlights the increasing need for Reliance to reduce its dependence on the energy sector and boost businesses that seek to leverage India’s billion-plus consumers.

Reliance’s gross refining margin — or profit from refining a barrel of crude oil into fuels — fell to US$5.70 per barrel in the latest quarter compared to US$9.40 a year earlier, the company said. Meanwhile, the profit at its telecom business under Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd nearly tripled over the same period.

Reliance shares have rallied about 25% this year, while Sensex has slipped 3.6%, as investors cheered Ambani’s fundraising spree that saw Reliance mop over US$25 billion by selling stakes in its digital and retail units. The jump also triggered one of the biggest wealth surges as Ambani amassed US$19.1 billion in 2020 through last Friday when he was the world’s sixth-richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“The stock is correcting a part of its sharp gains registered over the last few months,” said Arun Kejriwal, founder at KRIS, an investment advisory firm in Mumbai. “Now, the market is booking its profits.” — Bloomberg