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India’s Reliance denies plans for Amazon mega-deal

A source at the Indian oil-to-telecoms giant Reliance disputed the report of a deal with Amazon - Indranil MUKHERJEE / ©AFP

(AFP)

Indian conglomerate Reliance denied a report Thursday that it was planning to sell a $20-billion stake in its retail business to US rival Amazon in a deal that could upend the country’s hugely lucrative e-commerce sector.

The report published by Bloomberg on Thursday said that Reliance, owned by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, had offered Amazon a 40-percent stake in its retail subsidiary RRVL, citing an unidentified person with knowledge of the matter.

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The deal, which would have been the largest for India and for the Silicon Valley behemoth according to Bloomberg data, would have shaken up the South Asian nation’s retail sector, transforming the relationship between two firms that have spent months locked in frenzied competition.

But a source at the Indian oil-to-telecoms giant disputed the report, which sent Reliance shares up by more than seven percent in Mumbai, calling it “incorrect”.

“It makes no sense for both the parties to establish partnerships or collaborations”, the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Reliance has been fighting Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart for a share of India’s online market, establishing its digital platform JioMart in May.

After spending years battling local mom-and-pop shops for customers, the retail giants are now trying to work hand-in-hand with the smaller stores that dominate India’s towns and hinterlands to bring them online.

Reliance last month announced its acquisition of the retail, wholesale and logistics businesses of India’s Future Group, which owns some of the country’s best-known supermarket brands, adding around 1,800 stores to its portfolio.

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