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Reliance loses status as India's most valuable firm

Reliance Industries, for long the darling of Indian investors, was knocked off its four-year long perch as the country's most valuable company, as fears over slowing gas production dragged its stock down almost 30% this year and led to the first full day of trade with Coal India on top.

August 18, 2011 / 02:14 PM IST
 
 
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Reliance Industries, for long the darling of Indian investors, was knocked off its four-year long perch as the country's most valuable company, as fears over slowing gas production dragged its stock down almost 30% this year and led to the first full day of trade with Coal India on top.


Reliance, owned by Mukesh Ambani, the world's ninth richest man, saw its crown seized by Coal India, the world's largest coal miner, whose stock in energy-hungry India is the best performer this year on the country's top index.


Reliance has been under fire over the past few months from the upstream regulator, investors and analysts due to slowing gas output, sending its shares down over 29% this year, compared to an almost 19% fall in the main index.


Analysts on Thursday talked down the chances of RIL retaining its top spot in the near future, due to Coal India's surging growth outlook and margin worries across Reliance's other sectors, such as refining and petrochemical production.


Fund manager JP Morgan Asset Management halved its holding in Reliance between March and June this year. BlackRock Asset Management have reduced its position by nearly 29% between March and April, according to Thomson Reuters StreetSight.


UTI Asset Management has cut its positions in Reliance while increasing its holding in Coal India.


The two companies are separated only by a thread. As of mid-day trade on Thursday, Reliance had a market cap of Rs 2.45 trillion (USD 54 billion) while Coal India's market cap stood at Rs 2.49 trillion (USD 55 billion).


Coal heats up


State-owned Coal India has surged in Asia's third-largest economy, which aims to halve its peak-hour power deficit of nearly 14% in two years by ramping up generation. The miner accounts for nearly 80% of India's coal output.


The Kolkata-based miner has seen its shares rise over 25% this year, after the Indian government sold a 10-percent stake for USD 3.4 billion in the country's largest IPO ever last November.


Templeton Asset Management, Blackstone Group and Allianz Global Investors are among funds that have expanded their portfolios to include Coal India since April, according to Thomson Reuters StreetSight.


India is likely to import 135 million tonnes of coal this fiscal year, to meet a forecasted 11% rise in demand, and Coal India is in talks for acquisitions in Indonesia, Australia and the United States.


Reliance, which became India's largest company by market capitalization in February 2007, is looking to expand beyond its core businesses into telecom, financial services and in June said it planned to invest aggressively in retail.


Results from the fiscal first quarter showed a 16.7% rise in net profit last month, but analysts cautioned of a peak in refining margins and predicted further slowdown in its oil and gas business, which already lag estimates.

In May, India's upstream regulator called on Reliance to drill two extra wells this fiscal to meet gas production targets at a flagship block off the country's east coast.

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