Parent company Reliance Industries rose as much as 2.5%, the most since July 17, on Wednesday. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Doha: Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is in early discussions to purchase a minority stake in Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s rapidly expanding retail unit, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Qatar Investment Authority wants to increase its bets in India and is among parties that are in talks to buy into Reliance Retail Ventures, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private. The stake may amount to $1 billion, one of the people said. Other Middle Eastern investors looking to diversify their portfolios are also keen to invest in Ambani’s retail arm, the people said.

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The deliberations are still at a preliminary stage and a deal may not happen, the people added. The Financial Times first reported the discussions on Wednesday, citing three people with knowledge of the talks. Parent company Reliance Industries rose as much as 2.5 per cent, the most since July 17, on Wednesday.

“The company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis,” a Reliance Retail spokesperson said. The QIA declined to comment.

The interest comes as Ambani’s conglomerate is also considering a public listing for Reliance Retail and has started buying back shares in the unit and giving them to their employees as stock options. The subsidiary headed by Ambani’s daughter, Isha, is India’s biggest brick-and-mortar retailer and has been undertaken a swath of recent acquisitions.

Reliance Retail also raised over $6 billion three years ago from series of major investors, including the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the UAE along with General Atlantic, KKR & Co. and Silver Lake Partners.

Last week, Reliance Retail reported earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization that jumped 34 per cent to Rs51.5 billion ($628 million) in the quarter through June compared to the same period a year earlier.