India's Reliance claims record quarterly profits

Reliance is India's most valuable company with a market capitalisation of over 10 trillion rupees

Indian oil-to-telecoms giant Reliance Industries reported record quarterly net profits on Friday, boosted by strong growth in its retail businesses despite falling refining margins.

The Mumbai-based company owned by Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani said its consolidated net profit for the quarter-ended December rose 13.5 percent to 116 billion rupees ($1.63 billion) from 102 billion rupees reported for the same quarter a year earlier.

"The third quarter results for our energy business reflects the weak global economic environment and volatility in energy markets," Reliance chairman Ambani said in a statement.

The company said its gross refining margin, the profit earned from each barrel of crude, was down to $9.2 in the December quarter from $9.4 in the previous quarter.

Refining margins are a key profitability gauge for Reliance, which operates the world's biggest refining complex in India's Gujarat state.

The company said profits for its telecom arm Jio jumped 62 percent to 13.5 billion rupees for the quarter, with a total 370 million subscribers.

On Thursday Jio became India's top operator in terms of subscribers and revenue, three years after its launch, official data showed.

The announcement came as Jio's chief competitors, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, lost an appeal against paying a combined $7 billion in past spectrum and licence fees as ordered by the Supreme Court last year.

Jio, which escaped with a relatively light $1.8 billion bill, is seen as the only beneficiary of the November decision.

Ambani had launched Jio with much fanfare in September 2016, offering free services up to March 2017 and sparking intense price wars that saw consolidation in the Indian telecom sector.

Reliance is expected to roll out its e-commerce initiative later this year and has been conducting trials with mom-and-pop stores to test its payment devices, with the aim of connecting small shops with consumers.

Reliance is India's most valuable company with a market capitalisation of over 10 trillion rupees.

Shares of Reliance Industries were up almost 3 percent in Mumbai as the markets closed Friday ahead of the announcement.