Dhirubhais control over stock exchanges
In 1982, Reliance Industries came up against a rights issue regarding partly convertible debentures. It was rumored that company was making all efforts to ensure that their stock prices did not slide an inch. Sensing an opportunity, a bear cartel which was a group of stock brokers from Calcutta started to short sell the shares of Reliance. To counter this, a group of stock brokers till recently referred to as Friends of Reliance started to buy the short sold shares of Reliance Industries on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
The Bear Cartel was acting on the belief that the Bulls would be short of cash to complete the transactions and would be ready for settlement under the Badla trading system operative in the Bombay Stock Exchange. The bulls kept on buying and a price of Rs. 152 per share was maintained till the day of settlement. On the day of settlement, the Bear Cartel was taken aback when the Bulls demanded a physical delivery of shares. To complete the transaction, the much needed cash was provided to the stock brokers who had bought shares of Reliance, by none other than Dhirubhai Ambani. In the case of non settlement, the Bulls demanded an Unbadla (a penalty sum) of Rs. 35 per share. With this, the demand increased and the shares of Reliance shot above 180 rupees in minutes. The settlement caused an enormous uproar in the market and Dhirubhai Ambani was the unquestioned king of the stock markets. He proved to his detractors just how dangerous it was to play with Reliance.
To find a solution to this situation, the Bombay Stock Exchange was closed for three business days. Authorities from the Bombay Stock Exchange(BSE) intervened in the matter and brought down the Unbadla rate to Rs. 2 with a stipulation that the Bear Cartel had to deliver the shares within the next few days. The Bear Cartel bought shares of Reliance from the market at higher price levels and it was also learnt that Dhirubhai Ambani himself supplied those shares to the Bear Cartel and earned a healthy profit out of The Bear Cartels adventure.
After this incident, many questions were raised by his detractors and the press. Not many people were able to understand as to how a yarn trader till a few years ago was able to get in such a huge amount of cash flow during a crisis period. The answer to this was provided by the then finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee in the parliament. He informed the house that a Non Resident Indian had invested up to Rs. 22 Crore in Reliance during 1982 83. These investments were routed through many companies like Crocodile, Lota and Fiasco. These companies were primarily registered in Isle of Man. The interesting factor was that all the promoters or owners of these companies had a common surname Shah. An investigation by the Reserve Bank of India in the incident did not find any unethical or illegal acts or transactions committed by Reliance or its promoters.