Secret diaries08: Antilla man fighting Kurukshetra

Updated: Dec 31 2008, 06:42am hrs
Having already foiled the Madrid bid of arch-enemy 'Apollo', the 'Antilla' man, who happens to be the richest in India, is fighting his own 'Kurukshetra'.

The might sound straight out of a spy novel or the diary of an intelligence sleuth, but they are just code words that lawyers, investment bankers and advisers whispered in corporate corridors during 2008 to refer to clients.

Elsewhere, 'Moto Guzzi' and 'Truro' are facing a tough time ensuring success of their projects'Colour' and 'England'. Outside India, legal eagles failed to save 'Equinox', while 'Ruby' and 'Diamond' finally started working as a single entity.

Antilla is the world's costliest home being built in Mumbai at an estimated cost of two billion dollars and the owner is none other than Mukesh Ambani. His 'Kurukshetra' is reportedly a fight against surging costs and he is said to be cutting on excessive expenses.

Earlier this year, Mukesh engaged in a bitter battle with his estranged younger brother Anil Ambani, code-name Apollo, when the latter's group company Rome, code for Reliance Communications, wanted to take control of Madridwhich stands for South African telecom giant MTN.

Similarly, Moto Guzzi is the name for the global steel empire created by NRI billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, while Truro is for home-grown Tatasboth of whom are facing the heat of the global economic slowdown in their businesses.At the same time in the US, over a century-old investment bank Lehman Brothers' lawyers made desperate calls to save 'Equinox' from bankruptcy in September. Seeking to avoid the world's biggest ever bankruptcy, the team sent out an e-mail to various law partners which read like: "Urgent. Code name: Equinox. Have desperate need for help on an emergency situation." Unfortunately, the required help did not arrive and Equinox collapsed. Equinox is that time of the year when the length of day and night are almost equal and the sun is directly above the equator.

While the use of code-names has been a common practice among investment bankers for key people and entities associated with large-size M&A deals, the quantum of pressure companies are facing from the global economic crisis has expanded the horizon for such usage. Prior to the crisis, the usage of such codes presented an interesting case when Apollo, who rules Rome in India, sought to get control of Madrid, which happens to be in South Africa.

These words summed up the talks between investment bankers related to a deal that could have been the biggest merger and acquisition deal in the history of Corporate India that is between Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications and South African telecom giant MTN. Another high-profile M&A deal with some interesting code names was consummated late last year and the two companiesRuby and Diamondstarted working as a single entity in 2008. The deal was for Rubyor media baron Rupert Murdoch-led News Corporation -- taking over Diamond, which stood for another American media conglomerate Dow Jones. These code names were also used in the regulatory filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for the deal. Similarly, in the Arcelor takeover by NRI steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, investment bankers used motorcycle brands as the code names. Arcelor was 'Aprilia,' 'Suzuki' was the rival suitor Severstal and Mittal became 'Moto Guzzi.' n another mega-merger deal in steel sectorthat of Tata Steel's acquisition of Corus, Tata Steel was given a code-name of Truro, a South England town in Cornwall.

When bankers were searching for a prospective suitor for Corus, they called the potential sale as 'Project England'. Later when Tata remained the only serious partnerthat was before Brazil's CSN coming on stage the talks were focused on a one-to-one basis and this time the deal was called as 'Project Colour'. While both the deals were consummated months ago, in the year 2008, the going went tough for both Mittal and Tatas, in the backdrop of the global economic slowdown.

PTI