When other Indian tycoons were greedy, the richest of all was hesitant, even fearful. But now that most of his rivals have fallen on the swords of their debt-fueled hubris, Mukesh Ambani is preparing to pounce.
Ambani, 59, has all but completed massive investments in his petrochemicals empire, whose cash flows give him the firepower to promote and expand his new fourth-generation mobile service. He hopes to turn the network into a payments gateway: suddenly a very valuable proposition in a country where 86 percent of existing currency was outlawed by government diktat last month.
Reliance Jio snagged 50 million mobile subscribers in 83 days. It’s unclear whether that Facebook-beating growth can be sustained — or become profitable — when the service stops giving away free data sometime after March. What Ambani has managed to do is to push down per-user revenue for his competitors, which have been forced to cut prices. There’s still no evidence he’s taking market share away from Bharti AirtelBSE 1.06 % Ltd., Vodafone Group Plc and Idea Cellular Ltd. Regardless, the trio are guaranteed an uneasy 2017. Read More…
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