July 28, 2020 / 6:04 AM / 16 days ago

India's Reliance to pay up to $3.6 bln for Future Group retail ops - Mint

* Reliance raised $20 bln in recent months from backers including Google, Facebook

* Deal includes five listed entities, including Future Retail Ltd

* Future owns Big Bazaar, Brand Factory, Foodhall chains

* Price includes Future Group debt

BENGALURU, July 28 (Reuters) - Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd will pay between 240 billion and 270 billion rupees ($3.2-$3.6 billion) to buy the Indian retail chains owned by Future Group, Mint newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing two sources familiar with details of the deal.

Asia’s richest man, Ambani has been buoyed by investments close to $20 billion from backers including Google and Facebook in his oil-to-telecoms conglomerate, and is seeking to strengthen his hand in India’s huge retail sector.

Reliance’s existing retail operation already runs close to 12,000 stores, including a cash-and-carry wholesale business, in over 6,700 Indian towns and cities.

Owned by India’s “father of modern retailing”, Kishore Biyani, Future Group is home to supermarket chain Big Bazaar, upmarket food stores FoodHall, and bargain clothing chain Brand Factory.

A series of media reports have said the two were nearing agreement on the deal.

Ratings agency ICRA estimates here total debt at Future Group's listed companies had risen to 127.78 billion rupees by September last year and the company has since faced widespread closures under India's coronavirus lockdowns.

Mint cited its sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying the sale value included Future Group’s liabilities.

Five listed entities, including Future Retail Ltd, will be merged into Future Enterprises Ltd (FEL) before the sale to one of the retail subsidiaries of Reliance, the paper added.

In May, Reliance launched JioMart, an online grocery service in a move aimed at rivaling Amazon.com’s local unit and Walmart Inc’s Flipkart in the huge Indian market. Ambani plans to list Reliance’s digital and retail units over the next five years.

Future Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the deal value. A Reliance Industries spokesperson said the company evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis.

$1 = 74.7900 Indian rupees Reporting by Philip George in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham and Vinay Dwivedi

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