Global Economics

Feuding Ambani Brothers Talk Peace


The family dispute has turned into a major headache for the Indian government

Reliance Industries on Sunday responded positively to Anil Ambani's call to settle all outstanding disputes between them through dialogue and discussion, but added that the contentious gas dispute is a larger national issue and can only be resolved through the Supreme Court.

In a late night statement, RIL welcomed Anil Ambani's call to make a renewed effort to resolve and reciprocate. It said that that there is no contentious issue in the world that cannot be resolved satisfactorily through dialogue, adding that RIL will not be found wanting in responding to the move constructively.

Earlier in the evening, Anil Ambani had issued a statement saying that all disputes between him and his brother can be resolved in a constructive and cordial manner.

"I sincerely believe that Mukeshbhai and I can, even at this late stage, sort out all our disagreements, in a constructive, cordinal and conciliatory manner, if we both commit to getting this done," Mr. Ambani said. "....I am once again reaching out to Mukeshbhai and hope and pray that my feelings will be reciprocated and we will arrive at a solution to all outstanding issues with a generous heart, a willing mind and an accommodating spirit."

Mr. Ambani's move comes just days before the Supreme Court is taking up the hearing on the gas dispute between Reliance Natural Resources, an Anil Ambani company and Reliance Industries on October 20. In its order in June this year, the Bombay high court upheld RNRL's contention and asked both parties to sign an agreement based on a 2005 MoU between Anil and Mukesh Ambani.

Responding five hours later, RIL said it welcomes this statement and hopes that "it is a positive change in the negative, calumnious and malafide campaign launched by ADAG against RIL.

"In order to demonstrate that his intentions behind the latest overtures are bonafide we urge Shri Anil Ambani to put his sentiments into actions. We can now only hope that the deeds of Anil Ambani and his associates are reflective of the emotions expressed in the statement. In the last 48 hours, Shri Anil Ambani and ADAG have made allegations against the group and its directors which are not only untrue but increasingly hurtful. Hopefully, this way of engagement shall also change," the statement added.

The dispute between the two brothers over the gas issue had created a major crisis for the government which found itself dragged into the controversy over pricing of natural gas from RIL's gas fields off the eastern seaboard. One of the Union ministers, Murli Deora, who heads the petroleum ministry incurred Mr. Anil Ambani's wrath leading to allegations of corruption and favourtism, a development which put the government on the defensive.

The government was also forced to intervene in the case, especially after the Bombay high court, as its carefully-constructed structure of gas pricing, allocation would be severely damaged if the Bombay court was upheld by the supreme court.

The last few weeks have seen a flurry of statements, charges and counter-charges and hectic lobbying by all parties with an interest in the dispute. Senior ministers have also called for an amicable settlement. Talking exclusively to ET NOW, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said that the dispute is not merely an individual matter but affects the corporate world. "I hope good sense will prevail in the end," he said.

In his statement on Sunday, Anil Ambani too referred to the increasing pressure for an amicable settlement. "Over the past few weeks, many elder statesmen, trusted family members, and long-standing friends of my father Dhirubhai Ambani who have always had the best interests of the nation and the Ambani family at heart, have talked of the need to break the current impasse, and to find a solution that puts an end to this bitterness and rancour....I agree with each one of them. This has been a time of deep sadness and pain for me personally. Yet, throughout this very trying period, I have maintained the greatest love, affection and respect for Mukeshbhai as I have done since my birth."

It is not clear how far the two parties will go in resolving this dispute. The issues are far too contentious and it will require a major climbdown by one group for any settlement to work. The RIL statement makes it clear that the gas dispute will have to be decided by the highest court in the land. "Issues which arise out of a decision of the Bombay high court transcend any private differences between two brothers or two corporate entities, can now only be decisively resolved by a decision of the highest court. RIL sincerely hopes that any overture for rapprochement to end acrimony are sincere and in now way related to the ongoing hearing of the case in the honourable supreme court.

The RIL statement also chides Mr. Anil Ambani for making this overture through the public domain whereas he could have easily contacted his elder brother directly.


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