Saudi Arabia's PIF invests $1.3bn in Ambani's Reliance Retail Ventures

The kingdom's sovereign wealth fund is the latest to take an equity stake in the retail giant, joining global investors including Mubadala, TPG Capital and General Atlantic

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a Reliance Industries Limited sign board installed on a road divider in the western Indian city of Gandhinagar January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo
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Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is investing $1.3 billion in Reliance Retail Ventures, India’s largest retail chain controlled by Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani.

The kingdom's sovereign wealth fund signed a definitive agreement to acquire a 2.04 per cent equity stake in the company, it said in a statement on its website. The investment is in line with PIF's strategy to invest globally in industry leaders.

"This transaction demonstrates PIF’s commitment to investing and partnering for the long-term with innovative businesses around the world that lead and transform their sectors,” Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the sovereign wealth fund, said.

"This investment further demonstrates PIF’s commitment to generating returns for the Saudi people and driving the economic diversification of Saudi Arabia."

The PIF, which manages about $320bn in assets, is the latest to invest in the retail giant after Mr Ambani recently started selling equity stakes, a move that has attracted attention from global investors.

Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, global private equity firm TPG Capital, Abu Dhabi’s strategic investment arm Mubadala Investment Company and General Atlantic are among investors who have bought stakes in Reliance Retail in recent months.

Reliance Retail Ventures runs India’s largest consumer electronics chain, supermarkets, a cash and carry wholesaler, fast fashion outlets and JioMart, an online grocery store. The company operates almost 12,000 stores in nearly 7,000 towns and reported consolidated revenue of $21.7bn and net profit of $726.4 million in its reporting period ending in March 2020.

The Public Investment Fund said its investment will further strengthen its presence in India’s “dynamic economy and promising retail market segment”.

Reliance Retail Venture is “revolutionising India’s entire retail sector by further integrating the Indian retail markets through its ‘New Commerce’ strategy”, the PIF said.

India's retail sector is forecast to grow in size to $1.7 trillion by 2026 from $950bn in 2018, according to Statista.

Reliance is looking to grow its market share by consolidating the country's fragmented retail sector, offering to digitise operations of small and unorganised merchants and to partner with global and domestic chains.

The company recently bought the retail and wholesale businesses of competitor Future Group in a 247.1bn rupee deal that also included its logistics and warehousing units.

Future Group owns about 2,000 retail stores across 400 cities and towns in India. Its portfolio includes flagship supermarket chain Big Bazaar and a growing chain of small neighbourhood stores including EasyDay and Heritage Fresh, WH Smith and 7-Eleven. It also owns apparel chains Brand Factory and FBB.

Last month, the Public Investment Fund invested $1.53bn in Jio Platforms, the digital business unit of India's Reliance Industries, for a 2.32 per cent stake.

"We at Reliance have a long-standing relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, said.

The company, he said, looks forward to “sustained support and guidance” from the PIF as it continues its “ambitious journey to transform India’s retail sector for enriching the lives of 1.3 billion Indians and millions of small merchants”.