June 4, 2020 / 6:26 AM / a month ago

Reliance Industries closes $7 bln rights issue, India's largest ever

MUMBAI, June 4 (Reuters) - India’s oil-to-telecoms giant Reliance Industries on Wednesday closed a $7 billion rights issue, India’s largest ever, luring buyers in with a rare deferred payment offer.

Proceeds from the issue, also ranked as one of the world’s biggest by a non-financial company based on Dealogic data, will aid Reliance’s plan to slash net debt to zero this year.

The issue was subscribed about 1.6 times, in “a vote of confidence, by both domestic investors, foreign investors and small retail shareholders, in the intrinsic strength of the Indian economy”, billionaire owner Mukesh Ambani said a statement late on Wednesday.

Reliance launched the issue last month, offering existing shareholders one new share for 15 held at a discounted price of 1,257 rupees ($17) apiece.

Investors could pay only a quarter of the price upfront, and the rest in two instalments until November 2021.

Also, in a first, Reliance said the partly paid up shares could be traded on stock exchanges, giving investors a chance to buy more of the discounted issue than the entitlement and making it an attractive bet for arbitrage players.

The shares will be allotted on June 10 and listed on the exchanges on June 12, the conglomerate has said.

India is coming out of a two-month nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus that has brought economic activity to a standstill, with markets correcting sharply and deal activity slowing to a trickle.

Still, in the past six weeks, Reliance’s digital business - known as Jio Platforms - has raised a staggering $10 billion from global investors, including Facebook and private equity like Silver Lake and KKR & Co Inc.

The funds are set to help Reliance eliminate its $21.4 billion net debt this year.

With a crash in oil prices, Reliance’s shares hit a two-year low late March. Since then, the deal spree and the rights issue have propelled shares to a near record high, trading at 1,570 rupees at 0600 GMT on Thursday.

Promoters - as controlling stakeholders are called in India - hold a little over 50% of Reliance. ($1 = 75.4550 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Kim Coghill and Himani Sarkar)

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