Billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries is India's answer to US giants Exxon, AT&T and Amazon - all rolled into one, Bernstein Research said on January 21. "Reliance has disrupted the energy and telecoms industry in India and is on the cusp of doing the same to retail, fintech, and media," it said in a report adding the company has an enviable track record of innovation and execution.
For the oil-to-telecom conglomerate, energy remains core business and is expected to further expand as India is forecast to be the fastest-growing market for fuel and chemical products over the next decade, it said adding the company's partnership with BP of the UK and Saudi Aramco will support this.
Reliance owns the world's largest single-site oil refining complex and has multiple petrochemical plants. Three years back it forayed into telecom business and has reached 34 per cent share of market revenue.
"Based on the current net add run-rates it will likely reach 44 per cent share by the end of the next financial year," Bernstein said.
On its retail foray, it said Reliance is the offline leader with $18.5 billion of revenues coming from 11,000-plus stores. "The company is best positioned in New Commerce - digitizing the neighbourhood stores and in e-commerce (grocery/fashion categories)."
Also, fintech is another area in which Reliance is well positioned, it said identifying digitizing the kirana stores to accept digital payments and distributing mutual funds through Jio Money (payment app) as business opportunities.
Stating that media offers unique opportunities and synergies with telco, the analyst said Reliance has the dominant OTT platforms in India with content partnerships with Disney and Viacom.
"With activities spanning oil and gas, telecoms, retail media and fintech, Reliance is one of the most diversified conglomerates in India if not the world. There is simply no other company like it," Bernstein said. "In India, Reliance dominates energy, telco and retail in the same way that Exxon, AT&T and Amazon does in the US. But rather than three separate companies, Reliance comprises all three of these businesses rolled into one."
While Exxon is the world's largest publicly traded oil and gas company, AT&T is the world's largest telecommunications firm. Amazon is the world's largest online retailer.
Bernstein said Reliance has been unique in terms of entering new business areas and managing to achieve what the incumbent players and investors would never have thought possible. "This is a testament to Reliance management skills and ability to navigate some of the complexities which come with being a large operator in India."
While there have some failures, notably oil and gas production along the way, "what has impressed most is the strategic vision and execution ability of Reliance management to enter and 'win' in areas outside of core business," it said.
Over the past 10 years Reliance has undergone a transformation, which is almost unprecedented in corporate history, it said.
A decade ago 100 per cent of the EBITDA from the business came from energy-related business segments (refining, petrochemicals and E&P). This year FY20, the contribution from energy will fall to 64 per cent. "In two years (FY22), we expect that energy will fall below 50 per cent of the group EBITDA and by FY25, the energy-related business will account for around 30 per cent of group EBITDA," it said adding by FY23 telco will overtake energy to be the largest EBITDA contributing segment.
As Ambani embraced the new economy, Reliance sold out of the old economy - 30 per cent of upstream to BP in 2011 and an initial agreement with Aramco in 2019 for 20 per cent of the refining and petrochemical business).
The company, it said, could be a case study for other oil majors on how to evolve their business to compete in the low carbon world.Disclaimer: “Reliance Industries Ltd. is the sole beneficiary of Independent Media Trust which controls Network18 Media & Investments Ltd.”