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LIC keen to regain RIL board seat

December 09, 2004 18:24 IST

Amidst the proxy war between the Ambani brothers for the control of the Reliance empire there were indications that the Life Insurance Corporation and other financial institutions may push for a seat on the board of Reliance Industries Limited, the group's flagship company.

With a debt and equity stake valued approximately at Rs 12,000 crore (Rs 120 billion) in the group, the FIs including Unit Trust of India and mutual funds appear keen to regain the seat they held in the 12-member RIL board till 2003 although their holding is less than the required 10 per cent for a place on the board.

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"We will to talk to them (GIC and UTI). The issue has to be decided by them," LIC chairman R N Bharadwaj told PTI when asked if LIC would seek a representation on the RIL board, headed by Mukesh Ambani, to protect its exposure in terms of debt and equity.

"After we reach the decision, we will ask them (RIL)," he said making it clear that LIC on its own could not demand a place on the RIL board as it had equity of just over four per cent.

"We have to take a commercial decision. When we extended credit or took equity it was also a commercial decision," he said.

LIC's equity in RIL is valued at about Rs 3,000 crore (Rs 30 billion) going by the present market value of the company's shares. Besides, the insurance giant is understood to have extended a credit between Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) to Rs 2,500 crore (Rs 25 billion). LIC's holding in the other group company Reliance Energy is presently valued at Rs 1,300 crore (Rs 13 billion).

Asked if he met RIL chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani last week, Bharadwaj said, "I meet many people in the course of the day."

Bharadwaj said that LIC, GIC and UTI had equity of about 7-8 per cent in RIL and there was no representative from institutions since Mahesh Rao (from GIC) completed his term last year.

Despite repeated attempts and written queries sent to Mukesh Ambani's office including his executive vice president K V Subramaniam there was no response on the issue of FIs' representation at the company's board.

Mukesh Ambani, locked in a battle with younger brother Anil over the ownership issues of the Rs 90,000 crore (Rs 900 billion) Reliance empire, had met Finance Minister P Chidambaram last Saturday at the latter's residence but he chose not to talk to the media about the topic of discussion.

LIC with an equity of 13 per cent in Reliance Energy has V R Galkar on the board of the company, chaired by Anil Ambani, as it representative.

Besides, Gautam Doshi, a chartered accountant, represents the FIs in Reliance Energy where their total equity of about 20 per cent is currently valued at Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion).

In RIL, institutional equity is about 32 per cent including just about nine per cent of banks, FIs, UTI and mutual funds while foreign institutional investors account for 22.85 per cent equity.

Ever since Rao finished his five-year term last year, there is no FI representative on the RIL board.

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