Mumbai: Billionaires Mukesh and Anil Ambani danced and prayed in their ancestral village on the eve of the 80th anniversary of their father's birth in the strongest display of bonhomie since ending a feud that split the Reliance empire.
The brothers, who have a combined wealth of $28.5 billion (Dh104.68 billion) and control the world's biggest oil refining complex and India's second-largest phone company, were seen together on Tuesday for the first time since they pledged harmony in May 2010. On Wednesday, they inaugurated a memorial to the late Dhirajlal Ambani in Chorwad in the western state of Gujarat.
Reliance Communication, controlled by 52 year-old Anil, climbed to a two-week high on Tuesday on speculation that improved sibling relations may help the company clinch a deal to lease mobile-phone towers to Reliance Industries, run by Mukesh, 54. The elder Ambani operates India's biggest natural gas field, while Anil needs the fuel for his power plants.
"It will matter to shareholders if it is a business reunion," said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, strategist at SMC Global Securities in New Delhi.
"That would be a huge positive re-rating opportunity for Anil Ambani group stocks.
"From Reliance Industries' perspective, it would be an opportunity to expand their dream of entering into telecom."
When India's second-largest business group split in 2005, Mukesh got the Reliance group's petrochemicals, oil and gas units, while Anil took the power, financial services, telecommunications, and entertainment businesses. Both retained rights to the Reliance name.
Last year the brothers scrapped agreements that prevented them from competing in similar businesses.
Mukesh Ambani and Anil on Wednesday travelled in separate Mercedes-Benz cars to pray and have breakfast at the local Ambaji Mata temple after spending the previous evening performing the dandiya, a traditional Gujarati folk dance, along with their wives, mother and sister, Bloomberg UTV showed.
The Ambanis attended a discourse on the importance of family values and harmony by Rameshbhai Oza, their spiritual adviser, the Economic Times reported yesterday.
Anil flew in a Reliance Industries helicopter on Wednesday morning to offer prayers at the ancient Hindu temple of Somnath, Parimal Nathwani, group president for corporate affairs at Reliance Industries, said in an interview in Chorwad.
Security arrangements in the village were managed by the officials from the company's refinery complex at Jamnagar and 60 local volunteers, he said.
Daljeet Singh, a spokesman for Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance ADA Group, declined to comment.
Mukesh and Anil visiting their ancestral home together shows "there is love among the brothers," the Economic Times cited their mother, Kokila Ambani, saying in Chorwad. The family is "united," she said, according to a report on Tuesday.
$1 billion home
Chorwad, a coastal fishing village where Dhirajlal Ambani, known as Dhirubhai, grew up, lies 855 kilometres north-west by road from Mumbai, where Mukesh has built a skyscraper home. The building, equipped with helipads and a movie theatre, cost $1 billion, according to Forbes.
Dhirubhai founded Reliance Commercial to trade spices and yarn in 1959, the year Anil was born, and built an empire with businesses ranging from textiles to petrochemicals.
His two sons fought for control of the group after he died in 2002 without leaving a will.
They split the family business three years later in a settlement brokered by their mother.
In the following five years their battle over the price and supply of natural gas from Reliance Industries' assets halted plans for a north Indian power plant, while a merger between Anil's Reliance Communications and South Africa's MTN Group was scuttled after Mukesh said he had the first right to buy shares in his brother's company.
"It looks like they've reconciled to working together, and that could be the best thing for them individually," said U.R. Bhat, managing director of Dalton Capital Advisors India Pvt in Mumbai. "Old wounds can't completely be healed, but they can be stitched. There's a scar nevertheless."
- $28.5b: combined wealth of the Ambani brothers
- 80th: anniversary of Dhirubhai Ambani's birth
- 2002:year Dhirubhai died, sparking a family feud
- $1b: reported cost of Mukesh Ambani's home