The spat between the Ambani siblings worsened on Thursday, with Reliance Industries saying it would opt for arbitration if no conciliation was reached with Reliance Communications over differences relating to the latter’s merger talks with South Africa’s MTN Group.
“RIL has invoked provisions of dispute resolution contained in the Non Competition Agreement… and has invited RCOM to participate in the process of mutual conciliation prior to commencement of formal arbitration,” a RIL statement said.
Anil Ambani-run Reliance Communications and MTN have been in merger talks for about five weeks now, in what could create a telecom behemoth with annual sales of about $45 billion or more.
But weeks after the exclusive talks began on May 24, Mukesh Ambani’s RIL put a spanner saying it had the first right of refusal on stake sale in RCOM.
At the time, RCOM rejected RIL’s claims and said it was going ahead with the talks with MTN. On Thursday, the company reiterated its earlier stance. “This is only a sign of RIL’s increasing desperation and frustration,” an official statement quoted RCOM’s spokesperson as saying.
“RIL’s claim of a right of first refusal is simply an excuse to try and disrupt the creation of one of the world’s most valuable telecoms combinations, with a unique footprint covering the emerging growth markets of India, Africa and the Middle East,” the statement said.
It’s not yet clear how RIL’s legal claim would impact the outcome of the talks between RCOM and MTN that remain exclusive only until July 8. So far, MTN has refused to comment on the issue.