Amended notice to Reliance Industries on insider trading (Lead)

New Delhi, Nov 23 ( India’s markets watchdog has served an amended notice to Reliance Industries asking why it shouldn’t be barred from accessing the stock markets under the rules on fraudulent and unfair trade practices and the gains it made of Rs.513 crore not be disgorged.

The show cause notice has been issued in the matter relating to alleged insider trading in the shares of now defunct Reliance Petroleum, which had since merged with Reliance Industries, led by billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani.

The notice issued by the investigation department of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) further asks why directions should not be issued to bar the company from buying, selling and dealing in any security — directly or indirectly.

The original show cause notice was issued April 29 and pertained to alleged manipulative gains of Rs.513 crore made by Reliance Industries and 12 entities acting on its behalf.

“Reliance Industries Ltd has always abided by all the rules and regulations of SEBI and, hence, has neither violated any provision of insider trading nor acted in any manner so as to attract provisions under Section 11(i), 11 (B) and 11(4) of the SEBI Act, 1992,” said a company spokesperson.

“We have, accordingly, submitted our detailed reply to SEBI and have not received any further communication in this regard,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha in March last year, then minister of state for finance, Pawan Kumar Bansal, had said the markets watchdog had initiated an examination into the matter of alleged insider trading in shares of Reliance Petroleum.

The matter pertains to the sale of shares of Reliance Petroleum by the parent company in November 2007 to raise Rs.40.23 billion.

Reliance Industries subsequently said in a disclosure that the sale of shares was conducted by transactions through the stock exchanges and had helped to further broadbase the shareholding pattern.

In the show cause notice to the company, the markets watchdog had observed that between Nov 1-5, 2007, some 12 entities acting on behalf of Reliance Industries had created short position of around 7.65 crore shares at Rs.290 per share.

This, the watchdog said, had risen to 9.92 crore shares Nov 6, and the 12 entities accounted for as much as 93.63 percent of the total permissible open interest in Reliance Petroleum for the expiry of the contracts Nov 29.

It observed that the short sale of the contract was so large that the derivative contracts of the scrip reached the market-wide position limit Nov 6 itself, inviting the mandatory restriction of no further open interest.

Then, the watchdog said, the 12 entities started selling the Reliance Petroleum shares heavily in the cash market, amounting to 4.01 percent of the company’s equity, and depressed the price to around Rs.210.

“By artificially depressing the price in the cash market and thereby lowering the settlement price of the futures on expiry, Reliance Industries gained on its short positions in the derivatives market,” the notice said.

“The whole manipulative operation was arranged by Reliance Industries and it was aided by the 12 related entities. Reliance Industries earned Rs.513 crore by indulging in these manipulative activities.”

The latest show cause has also asked why these gains should not be disgorged.