August 13, 2019 / 6:23 AM / 5 days ago

Reliance shares see biggest intraday gain in a decade; rivals hit by disruption fears

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) shares saw their biggest intraday rise in more than a decade on Tuesday, after the company set a target to reach zero net debt in 18 months and vowed to reward shareholders with higher dividends and periodic bonus issues.

FILE PHOTO: A woman rides her scooter past advertisements of Reliance Industries' Jio telecoms unit, in Ahmedabad, India, July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Reliance led by Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, said on Monday Saudi Aramco was to invest roughly $15 billion for a 20% stake in its oil-to-chemicals business, while also detailing plans to launch cut-price home internet services across India next month.

The announcements drove Reliance shares up as much as 12% — its biggest such move since Jan. 14, 2009. The spike has put the company within touching distance of becoming the highest-valued Indian company again. Currently, it trails Tata Consultancy Services (TCS.NS) by slightly more than $1 billion.

Its plans to launch JioFiber broadband services threaten to upend India’s telecom market with offers of free voice calls for life, television and movie streaming and even free TV sets to go with some subscription plans.

Analysts at Kotak Institutional Securities said Reliance “hit all the right chords” with its announcements and upgraded the stock to “Buy” from “Sell.”

Shares of telecom majors Bharti Airtel (BRTI.NS) fell almost 7% before recouping some losses, while Vodafone Idea (VODA.NS) slid as much as 10% as the announcements spurred worries of a repeat of what happened just three years ago when Reliance’s telecom upstart, Jio, burst onto the scene.

Jio, with cut-price data plans, has managed to become India’s top mobile operator by subscribers and No. 2 globally in a span of less than three years. The company, with more than 340 million users, said “half a billion customers” are now within its reach.

Jio’s plans to offer free land-line spell further trouble for state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).

BSNL has been reported bit.ly/2YKMHuz to be under severe financial stress, chasing dues worth 30 billion rupees and delaying some employee salaries. At last count, the public sector telco was the fourth largest with 115.9 million users.

Reliance said customers of its Premium JioFiber services will be able to watch movies in their living rooms the same day these movies release in theaters.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Reliance would offer this and multiplex owner Inox INOX.NS said in a release “producers, distributors and multiplex owners in India have mutually agreed to an exclusive theatrical window of 8 weeks, between theatrical release of a movie and release on any other platform.”

Still, shares of theater operators PVR (PVRL.NS) and Inox fell as much as 8% and 10%, respectively, after trading resumed following a holiday on Monday. Shares in Dish TV India (DSTV.NS) also fell.

As of 0733 GMT, Reliance shares were up about 11%, while the broader market .NSEI was down 0.78%.

Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Euan Rocha, Himani Sarkar & Uttaresh.V

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