Over the following four and a half decades Ambani took plenty more chances, making bets on vast projects and using brawn and guile to deal with officials and politicians. Today RIL is a conglomerate active in energy, refining and petrochemicals, with a market value of $55 billion, or a tenth of the worth of India’s stockmarket.
At the most recent AGM in June some attendees grouched about the stock price and low dividends; today, with the shares at 770 rupees, they might be grumpier still. Though RIL’s motto is “growth is life”, its valuation implies that the years of plenty are over. Of RIL’s main business lines, refining is chugging along, and the firm is investing to double the size of its petrochemicals unit.
An important factor may be that the pool of potential outside investors has shifted from Indian individuals to institutions and foreigners, who are typically sceptical about the long-term prospects of the refining and petrochemical industries, which have a lousy track record in most countries.