Profits at India’s Reliance fall on COVID impact

MUMBAI (AFP) – Profits at Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries dropped sharply between April and June this year, the company said on Friday, as Asia’s third-largest economy battled a vicious second wave of COVID-19.

The oil-to-telecoms giant, which is owned by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, reported a consolidated net profit of INR122.73 billion in the quarter ending June 30, a 7.25 per cent fall compared to the same period last year.

Even though its quarterly revenues jumped by 58 per cent year-on-year to INR1.44 trillion, aided by its flagship oil and gas businesses, its retail arm took a hit as a spike in infections prompted shop closures.

“COVID-related restrictions on store operations during the quarter impacted our retail business operations and profitability. This is a temporary phenomenon,” Ambani said in a statement.

“I am happy that our company has delivered robust growth despite facing a highly challenging operating environment caused by the second wave of the COVID pandemic,” he added. Its telecom business Jio added 14.3 million subscribers during the quarter, recording a nearly 10-per-cent increase in operating revenue.

A Reliance Digital Retail store in Kolkata, India. PHOTO: AFP

Ambani is locked in a high-stakes battle with Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, as Amazon and Reliance fight for a share of India’s massive e-commerce market.

The two firms are currently engaged in a row over Ambani’s acquisition of domestic retail giant Future Group – which Amazon has sought to delay, with a Singapore-based arbitration panel asking Reliance to halt the deal.

Reliance has dismissed the panel’s order, saying its agreement with Future Group complies with Indian law.

The behemoth has also sought to limit its dependence on its core fossil fuel business, unveiling a USD10 billion plan to invest in renewable energy last month.

The investment includes a 5,000-acre manufacturing facility in India’s western state of Gujarat, with the company aiming to produce 100 gigawatts of solar power by 2030.

Reliance, which operates the world’s biggest oil refining complex in Gujarat, has a market capitalisation of more than USD182 billion.

The company’s shares closed down 0.74 per cent in Mumbai on Friday ahead of the earnings announcement.