India’s Bharti, Reliance End Talks on Insurance Joint Ventures Deal

November 28, 2011

Reliance Industries has mutually agreed to end negotiations with Bharti Enterprises to buy its stakes in two insurance joint ventures with France’s AXA, the two Indian companies said on Friday.

Reliance said the negotiations to acquire Bharti’s 74 percent stakes in the life insurance and general insurance joint ventures were terminated as it was “unable to reach agreement on the long-term vision and joint governance of the ventures” with AXA.

Reliance, India’s largest-listed company, had said in June that it would buy out Bharti’s stakes, as it sought to build on moves beyond its core energy business.

The parties had not disclosed financial details of the transaction.

Reliance had planned to own, along with associate Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Ltd, 57 percent and 17 percent, respectively, in each insurance venture, it had said in June.

With growth in its core energy business below expectations over the past year, Reliance has been keen to diversify and has ventured into areas such as telecoms and financial services, as well as tried to build up its presence in retail.

Bharti Enterprises, which controls leading Indian telecoms firm Bharti Airtel, had set up the ventures — Bharti AXA Life Insurance and Bharti AXA General Insurance — with AXA, Europe’s second biggest insurer, in 2006.

It had earlier said the business did not fit in with its long-term plans, but on Friday said the two joint ventures will continue to develop their operations in India.

Bharti’s telecoms unit has been weighed down by its $9 billion acquisition of the African mobile operations of Kuwait’s Zain last year and huge costs of launching its 3G network in India.

An AXA spokesman in Paris declined to comment.

Ahead of the announcement, Reliance shares ended down 2.5 percent in a weak Mumbai market. Bharti Airtel shares closed 0.9 percent lower.

(Reporting by Prashant Mehra; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan)

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