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Timeline: Key dates in Ambani brothers' dispute

Following is a timeline of key dates in the Ambani rift.
Reuters | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 23, 2010 05:24 PM IST

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani in a long-running dispute with his brother Anil over the country's largest gas find, effectively giving the government control to set gas prices.

The feud between India's richest brothers has raised concerns about the influence of big business on government policy, and the ruling by a three-judge panel is expected to have far-reaching implications on energy policy in Asia's third-largest economy.

Following is a timeline of key dates in the Ambani rift:

* July 2002 - Dhirubhai Ambani, a school teacher's son and founder of the Reliance business empire, dies. Mukesh Ambani becomes chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Ltd, and Anil Ambani is made vice-chairman.

* November 2004 - Feud between the brothers becomes public.

* June 2005 - Family reaches a settlement to split the Reliance group in a deal brokered by their homemaker mother, Kokilaben.

* 2006 - Formal split takes place, with Mukesh taking control of flagship Reliance Industries, with interests in petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, refining and textiles. He has since launched a retail venture. The Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group gets telecoms, power, entertainment and financial services. The Group includes Reliance Communications Ltd, Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, Reliance Capital Ltd, Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) and Reliance Power Ltd.

* July 2008 - Reliance Communications calls off merger talks with South Africa's MTN after Mukesh makes a claim on the shares of Anil's telecom firm.

* June 15, 2009 - Mumbai High Court directs Reliance Industries and Reliance Natural to enter a gas supply agreement within a month.

* July 1, 2009 - Reliance Industries says will appeal to the Supreme Court against High Court ruling.

* July 19, 2009 - Indian government steps into the legal dispute, filing petition in the Supreme Court saying the gas is its property.

* July 20, 2009 - The Supreme Court does not exclude the government from the proceedings. Court says will hear case on Sept. 1.

* Aug. 28, 2009 - The Supreme Court website lists case hearing on Oct. 20.

* Oct 11, 2009 - Following a visit to holy shrines in the Himalayas, Anil Ambani offers an olive branch to his elder brother and makes an impassioned call to end the impasse. Reliance Industries welcomes the move, but says the dispute under litigation is not merely a family matter and hoped "any overtures for rapprochement are in no way related to the ongoing hearing of the case".

* Oct. 20, 2009 - A three-member bench, including Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, of the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments in the case.

* Nov 4, 2009 - The hearing is disrupted when a judge withdraws, citing potential conflict of interest as his daughter worked at a firm that was a consultant to Reliance Industries.

* Nov 5, 2009 - A new three-member bench that also includes the chief justice begins hearing arguments from scratch.

* Nov 5-Dec 18, 2009 - Reliance Industries argues a private deal between the Ambani brothers cannot take precedence over government policy, which determines who can receive gas and at what price. Reliance Natural, which claims otherwise, says the government will not suffer a loss even if Reliance Industries sells it the gas at the disputed price. The government stresses it does not favour either side in the dispute.

* Dec 18, 2009 - Court finishes hearing the case and reserves judgement.

* May 7, 2010 - The Supreme Court rules in favour of Mukesh Ambani. Court asks brothers to renegotiate the gas contract within six weeks and approach a companies court within eight weeks.

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