Barely two months after raising USD 20.2 billion for its digital arm Jio Platforms, India’s largest conglomerate Reliance has kicked off another fundraising spree for its retail business, Reliance Retail.
Owned by Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest person, Reliance took the market by storm when he brought 13 high-profile global investors including American tech giants Google and Facebook, on the cap table of Jio Platforms between April and July.
Now Ambani is back in the market to convince investors into backing Reliance Retail. In the last four weeks, the business tycoon has landed a total of USD 5.1 billion from seven global investors by selling an 8.48% stake in the company’s retail arm.
On Tuesday, Reliance raised USD 750 million from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) by selling a 1.20% stake in Reliance Retail. Last week, the Abu Dhabi-based sovereign investor Mubadala, Singapore’s GIC, American VC firm TPG, put in USD 850 million in Reliance Retail for a 1.40% stake, USD 750 million for a 1.22% equity stake, and USD 250 million for a 0.41% equity stake, respectively.
Ambani began Reliance Retail’s fundraising streak with Silver Lake’s USD 1 billion-check in the second week of September. Then KKR and General Atlantic came along, pumping in USD 755 million and USD 500 million for 1.28% and 0.84% equity, respectively. Later that month, co-investors of Silver Lake said they would invest an additional USD 255 million into the entity which took the aggregate investment by the Silicon Valley-based investment firm and its co-investors in Reliance Retail to USD 1.2 billion for a 2.13% stake.
While the first two deals valued Reliance Retail at USD 57.3 billion, for the rest of the transactions, the company’s valuation went up by a billion to USD 58. 3 billion.
It is to be noted that except GIC, all other investors are the backers of Jio Platforms as well. GIC is also the first Asian investor in Reliance. Reportedly, SoftBank had also shown an interest in writing a check for Reliance Retail but was put on the waiting list by Ambani.
Investors are betting their risk capital on Reliance Retail’s ‘New Commerce’ strategy, which it says is a business opportunity worth USD 700 billion. Reliance hopes to digitize small and unorganized merchants through Jio’s point-of-sale machine in the back end, while on the consumer side it connects these retailers with buyers through its recently launched e-commerce platform JioMart.
With Jio Platforms, the investors bet on Reliance’s vision to accelerate the digital transformation of billions of Indians and millions of small retailers by providing them internet, mobile network, devices, and a host of digital services.
JioMart is an integral piece that connects Reliance Retail and Jio Platforms since it is the joint venture between the two. Present in 200 cities, the entity is fast emerging as a competitor to e-tailer giants Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart in the country.
Started in 2006, Reliance Retail has grown to become India’s largest retail venture offering groceries, electronics, apparel, and fashion and lifestyle goods. Along with popular chains like Reliance Fresh, Reliance Digital, and Reliance Trends, it has over 40 subsidiaries and clocks close to 640 million footfalls annually in 12,000 stores spread across the country.
Till last year, Ambani’s enormous physical retail assets were lying underutilized. This year, while Ambani was unlocking the value of Reliance’s digital and telecom assets by selling stakes in Jio Platforms, he was also working on the contours of a larger deal for Reliance Retail that would eventually boost the value of his retail empire.
One and half months after culminating the fundraising spree for Jio Platforms, Ambani acquired the retail and wholesale business as well as the logistics and warehousing business of the Indian conglomerate, Future Group for USD 3.35 billion.
Post the acquisition, Reliance Retail’s grocery business accounts for about 38% of India’s organized grocery business, while in organized apparel retailing and consumer electronics, the Reliance group holds about 7% and 33% market shares, respectively, according to the brokerage firm Motilal Oswal.
“This deal should further aid Reliance in its online venture JioMart. Through this, the company aims to create a hub-and-spoke model using its deep network of stores as an inventory sourcing warehouse,” the firm said in a recent research note.
Another report by brokerage firm Nomura said the combined entity with a larger market share will increase potential strategic investor interest.
“With private equity investments in both Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail Ventures, the market would expect Reliance Industries to separately list these companies eventually,” said JP Morgan, in a recent research note.