Yasir al-Rumayyan, chief executive of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, will join the board as an independent director, Ambani said at the company’s annual meeting on Thursday.
Rumayyan’s appointment is part of Reliance’s attempt to transform the family-owned conglomerate, founded by Mukesh’s father, Dhirubhai almost 50 years ago, into a 21st century company rooted in the global energy economy and of technology.
Reliance brought in a series of strategic investors from technology and private equity last year for its digital and retail businesses. Facebook and Google sit on the board of Reliance’s digital subsidiary, Jio Platforms, in which they have invested billions of dollars.
The addition of Rumayyan, who is also chairman of state-owned energy giant Saudi Aramco, to Reliance’s board highlights Ambani’s quest to deepen ties with the Gulf Kingdom, including oil and gas. Liquidity is vital for the future of the Indian group’s core refining business.
Reliance is trying to close a $ 15 billion Saudi Arabia investment for a 20% stake in the conglomerate’s refining and petrochemicals assets, first announced by Ambani in 2019. Ambani said it s ‘expected the partnership to be finalized this year.
The deal was delayed by the pandemic and the fallout from the economic crisis on Aramco’s finances. Talks were recently revived, with the kingdom considering paying off the Reliance deal with stocks first and then staggering cash payments over several years.
Last year, PIF agreed to invest $ 1.5 billion in Jio, as part of a $ 20 billion fundraiser by subsidiary Reliance. The Saudi fund also invested $ 1.3 billion in Reliance Retail.
Ambani said he was “delighted and privileged” to have Rumayyan join the board, calling him “one of the most renowned names in energy, finance and technology”.
The Reliance boss also said the appointment would speed up the Indian conglomerate’s “internationalization”, but did not disclose details on the role Rumayyan would play.
Ambani has announced plans to invest $ 10 billion in clean energy over the next three years, outlining plans to build four gigausines and “establish and activate” 100 gigawatts of solar power in India by 2030.
He said that in September, Jio will launch a low-cost Android smartphone developed in partnership with Google, as part of a strategy to expand market share.
Saudi Arabia has close ties with India, a major consumer of the country’s crude oil. As oil demand growth weakens in the west, the Gulf Kingdom looks to big buyers in Asia to support long-term sales.
As with many Indian conglomerates, Reliance is largely run by family members and longtime associates. Ambani’s wife, Nita, sits on Reliance’s board of directors along with Hital and Nikhil Meswani, both sons of one of the company’s founding directors.
Ambani has maintained relations with Saudi royalty and elites, making several trips to the country, including an appearance in 2019 at the annual Davos in the Desert investment summit in Riyadh.