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Anil Ambani powers country's biggest IPO

It took just a minute for hungry investors to fully subscribe to Reliance Power's $3 billion IPO, India's biggest, and possibly catapult the company's founder Anil Ambani above his brother and bitter rival in India's rich list.

business Updated: Jan 15, 2008 17:43 IST
Rina Chandran

It took just a minute for hungry investors to fully subscribe to Reliance Power's $3 billion IPO, India's biggest, and possibly catapult the company's founder Anil Ambani above his brother and bitter rival in India's rich list.

Ambani, 48, established the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group in 2005 as a public feud with elder brother Mukesh saw the empire of their late father, Dhirubhai Ambani, split between the siblings.

Mukesh took control of oil and petrochemicals giant Reliance Industries Ltd, while the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group gained a toe-hold in other fast-growing areas such as financial services, infrastructure, entertainment and power.

"We will think bigger. We will think faster. But, most important of all, we will think better -- to stay ahead of competition and of our times," Anil said on the group's Web site on Tuesday.

Reliance Power will join the group's other listed firms that include Reliance Capital, Reliance Communications and Reliance Energy.

Anil last year lost out to Vodafone's $11.1 billion bid for mobile phone operator Hutchison Essar, but is expanding the dominant GSM platform on top of Reliance Communications' CDMA operations, and is the second largest mobile provider in India, ahead of Vodafone.

Anil was ranked as the world's third-richest Indian by Forbes magazine in November with $45 billion, behind Mukesh's $49 billion and steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal's $51 billion.

Gains in the price of shares of Anil's companies, and the Reliance Power launch could move him to the top.

The IPO had been expected to get a thumping response: The Reliance brand excites bankers and commoners alike, drawing the sort of adulation reserved for movie stars and cricketers in a celebrity-obsessed country.


FITNESS FANATIC

Dhirubhai Ambani, a school teacher's son, founded Reliance in 1958 to trade in synthetic yarn, and expanded it to include interests from petrochemicals and refining to exploration, production of oil and gas and textiles.

He died in July 2002, but his presence looms large as both brothers publish large ads to mark his birth and death anniversaries, and frequently cite him at news conferences.

Anil, who has a business degree from Wharton and joined the Reliance group in 1983 as co-chief executive, bears a striking resemblance to his late father.

A sharp dresser with a penchant for designer labels and cool gadgets, he calls reporters by name at news conferences as he paces the stage.

A member of the prosperous Gujarati community, speaking the regional language to shareholders and business associates, he is a vegetarian and does not drink or smoke.

Married to a former Bollywood actress with two young boys, he is a deeply religious Hindu, who often visits temples before the start of new ventures. His mother sometimes accompanies him.

A self-confessed fitness fanatic, he's been dubbed "Marathon Man" by the local media, and jogs the streets near his plush home every morning, his chauffeur driving slowly behind.

He went for his usual run on Tuesday, a company official said, in preparation for an annual Mumbai public run at the weekend, where he typically completes a half marathon.

"It was business as usual for him," said the official.