Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani and his aides debated the next dealmaking lens of his empire in June and found themselves in an unexpected dilemma while discussing the same. As per sources, after Gautam Adani’s news of bidding in the first biggest auction of 5G airwaves in India reached Ambani, his company Reliance Industries Ltd. considered buying a foreign telecommunications giant. A few months earlier, Gautam Adani overtook Ambani as Asia’s richest man.
Concerning India’s mobile market, Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. comes out on top in this industry. In contrast, the Adani Group doesn’t even have a license to provide wireless telecommunications services. But the idea that he might be circling around, so close to Ambani’s ambitions, put the businessman’s camp on high alert.
Some of Ambani’s aides advised him to conserve funds to deal with any challenges on his home turf. At the same time, other associates suggested that he pursue the international target and expand his business beyond the Indian market.
According to people familiar with the matter, eventually, Ambani, whose worth is around US$90Bn, never bid for a foreign company. This happened because he decided that retaining financial firepower in case Adani was challenged would be wiser. He has already reported the world’s largest wealth gain of US$118.3Bn this year, as per data from Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The two wealthiest men in Asia are stepping on the same ground after expanding their respective businesses for more than 20 years, as the Adani Group has decided to forgo its traditional focus areas.
This decision of both tycoons has already created a stage for a clash along with several consequences in India and foreign countries. This clash has caused a race for riches beyond the commodity-led sectors where Adani and Ambani were the first to make their fortunes as the US$3.2Tn economy embraces the digital era.
Arun Kejriwal, the founder of KRIS, a Mumbai Investment Advisory firm, said that both businessmen are equally passionate about their respective business growth, which means they will run into each other without any doubt. He stated this as he has already been tracking the Indian market and these two richest men for 20 years. He further said that Adani and Ambani would co-exist, cooperate and compete, and finally, the fittest one would succeed.
Representatives from Ambani and Adani’s companies refused to make a statement for this story.
The Adani Group, on July 9, stated that it has no plan to enter the mobile market, which Ambani presently controls. The group will only consider buying airwaves in the government’s bid to enhance cybersecurity at its ports and airports and create “private network solutions.”
Adani has focused on business areas such as coal mining, ports, and shipping for many years. These are sectors in which Ambani has never interfered, even after his big investment in crude oil. But this changed dramatically over the previous year.
It was said to be in March that the Adani Group was considering a business partnership in Saudi Arabia. In addition, it intended to purchase its big oil exporter, Aramco, as reported by Bloomberg News. A few months before this news, Reliance clashed with the Adani Group as it was also planning to sell 20% of its shares in its energy unit to Aramco. These businessmen have also intended to proceed further in green energy as both are expected to invest over US$70 billion in this sector. At the same time, Adani has been signaling to initiate his step in sports, digital services, retail, media, and petrochemicals.
Initially, when Ambani introduced his business in the telecom industry in 2016, he offered free calls and data at a cheap cost to attract consumers. Still, later, as he cemented his dominance in the market, prices started increasing. It is predicted that if Adani began to target consumers in a big way in telecommunications, these costs could decline from their level during the initial competition stage, as history suggests. On the contrary, if both groups secure a duopoly, prices may increase again.
These two billionaires have a record of disrupting most areas they set foot in and then controlling them. They both have always been fiercely competitive and have excellent project execution skills.
Not all of Adani’s dealmaking overlaps with Reliance, and he’s raced ahead with outlays on mergers & acquisitions even as Ambani has stayed cautious on spending heavily overseas amid an uncertain global outlook. The Adani Group acquired the Haifa port in Israel in July for US$1.2 billion. He bought Holcim’s Indian cement units for US$10.5 billion in May.