Billionaire brothers' gas feud

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The Independent Online

The Indian government has accused two billionaire brothers of holding the country "hostage" in a feud over gas supplies from their fields in the Bay of Bengal.

Mukesh and Anil Ambani, who were once ranked as the fifth and sixth richest people on the planet, are involved in a court dispute over a supply agreement between their rival companies. The tussle stems from the break-up of the Reliance empire built by their father.

In 2005, the brothers signed a memorandum of understanding which detailed that Mukesh, the head of Reliance Industries, would supply gas to his younger brother's company at a fixed rate for 17 years. The official price set by the state is now almost double that – something that annoys both Mukesh's company and the government, which has called for the deal to be ruled null and void.

The gas at stake is in the massive Krishna Godavari basin. The government said the two brothers had acted in a surreptitious and unauthorised manner when they drew up the now-disputed deal, treating the nation's gas "as their personal and family property". It added: "The national economy cannot be allowed to be held hostage by the Ambanis."

The gas row is just the latest dispute between the brothers, as famed for their fractious relationship as for their wealth. In the Forbes 2009 rich list, Mukesh, 52, was listed seventh and said to be worth about £11.9bn. Anil, 50, was at 34th with £6.1bn.