New Delhi, Dec 12: India’s richest man is weighing an initial public offering of mobile operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., people with knowledge of the matter said, after a $31 billion investment spree that roiled the country’s wireless market. Reliance Industries Ltd., the conglomerate backed by tycoon Mukesh Ambani, is holding internal discussions about preparing to list Jio as soon as late 2018 or early 2019, according to the people. Jio, which hasn’t made a profit since its official launch last year, is targeting to improve its financial performance before any share sale, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.
A Jio listing would cap a triumphant return to the Indian wireless market for Ambani, more than a decade after a family feud that led him to cede control of a previous telecom venture to his younger brother. Jio, which is wholly owned by Reliance Industries, launched a free-for-life call service last year that triggered a price war and consolidation in one of the world’s most crowded mobile markets.
Bharti Airtel Ltd. this year agreed to absorb Tata Group’s mobile-phone business, while Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular Ltd. announced they would merge their local operations to create the nation’s largest wireless operator. Despite being the newest entrant, Jio has accumulated more than 138.6 million subscribers, making it the fourth-largest operator at the end of September, according to data from the telecom regulator.
‘Ahead of Schedule’
Deliberations about a Jio listing are at an early stage, and there’s no certainty they will lead to a transaction, the people said. A representative for Reliance Industries declined to comment. Jio reported a net loss of 2.71 billion rupees ($42 million) in the quarter ended Sept. 30, though the business made a profit before interest and taxes over the period. The wireless operator is “ahead of our schedule in terms of the returns” generated, Ambani said at a Dec. 1 event in New Delhi.
Ambani has a net worth of nearly $40 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Shares of Reliance Industries have jumped 70 percent this year, giving the company a market value of about $93 billion. India’s benchmark index is trading near an all-time high, which has helped fuel a record IPO haul in the country. First-time share sales in the country have raised 750 billion rupees ($11.6 billion) this year, more than double the previous record set in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.