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FB Roundup: Mohsin and Zuber Issa, Isha Ambani, Daniel Kretinsky

FB Roundup: Mohsin and Zuber Issa, Isha Ambani, Daniel Kretinsky
In this week’s FB Roundup, the Issa brothers invest in zero-emission lorry business HVS; Mukesh Ambani’s daughter is set to join the Jio Financial board; and Daniel Kretinsky aims to take control of French supermarket chain Casino.
By Glen Ferris
Mohsin and Zuber Issa

Issa brothers invest in zero-emission lorry business
Mohsin and Zuber Issa, the billionaire brothers who own a majority stake in UK supermarket giant Asda along with petrol station forecourt businesses across the UK and Europe, have invested £30 million in zero-emission, hydrogen-powered lorry start-up HVS.

Having bought Asda for £6.8 billion in February 2021, the brothers’ EG Group have been eager to grow their portfolio with the purchase of Co-Op petrol stations for up to £600 million among their recent acquisitions and a proposed £8 billion takeover of the American fast food chain Subway.

Now, the siblings have set their sights on HVS, which, according to The Times, “has been trialing and developing a lorry which runs on hydrogen fuel cells at the Mira proving ground in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.”

HVS, which has also won £21 million in taxpayer-funded grants , is aiming to begin production on a lorry fleet which will have “a range of around 350 miles and can be refuelled at the same time that it takes to fill the tank of a diesel lorry” by 2026.

The Issas’ funding comes as the brothers announced they are planning Britain’s inaugural network of hydrogen fuel stations in Dover, on the north M25, in the Midlands, and around Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow.

Since early 2023, Asda has been working with HVS to create “a self-driving, zero-emission heavy goods tractor unit which is set to begin trials in 2024” in the hopes of speeding up the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles by the freight sector.

Starting out with a single petrol station in Bury, Greater Manchester, in 2001, the Issas have grown their global empire to include brands such as Euro Garages, Cooplands Bakery and Leon, as well as KFC's biggest franchise and a close working relationship with the likes of UK bakery chain Greggs, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme and Cinnabon, with more than 6,600 sites and 50,000 employees around the world.

Isha Ambani

Mukesh Ambani’s daughter set to join Jio Financial board
Mukesh Ambani’s soon-to-be-launched financial services unit is set to feature his daughter Isha Ambani as a non-executive director of the board.

The appointment is on the recommendation of Ambani himself as he takes further steps into an apparent succession plan within his vast Reliance Industries empire.

Reliance Strategic Investments Ltd., which will be known as Jio Financial, previously approved the appointment of Rajiv Mehrishi, who once served as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Sunil Mehta and Bimal Manu Tanna as independent directors, according to a recent filing. 

Isha Ambani is currently part of the senior leadership team at Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd., “where she is driving expansion into new business lines, geographies and formats”, the company said in the filing. 

Isha, who reportedly played a major role in the 2016 launch of the mobile data network Jio, follows in the footsteps on her older brother Akash Ambani, who took over as chairman of wireless operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, and younger brother Anant Ambani, who has taken on the group’s renewable energy concerns.

Mukesh is currently ranked the richest person in Asia and 13th richest in the world, according to Forbes, with an estimated personal net worth of $87.2 billion.

Daniel Kretinsky

Daniel Kretinsky aims to take control of French supermarket chain
Billionaire Daniel Kretinsky – known as the Czech Sphinx – has increased the size of his proposed equity investment in French supermarket chain Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA as he battles with a host French business executives to take control of the embattled operator.

Kretinsky made his bid to increase his stake in Casino, alongside a group led by French telecom billionaire Xavier Niel, as trading in Casino’s shares was suspended.

Kretinsky, who already holds an undisclosed number of shares in Casino, is teaming up with fellow Casino stakeholder Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière’s Fimalac for a proposal of €1.35 billion ($1.47 billion) in cash, which would reach a €1.8 billion capital increase inclusive of debt converted into equity.

Niel’s group of suitors, which includes banker Matthieu Pigasse and retail entrepreneur Moez-Alexandre Zouari, “offered to invest €900 million with the support of a group of secured creditors of Casino,” according to a statement. 

According to Bloomberg, “Casino is looking for no less than €900 million of new equity and aims to convert its €3.5 billion of unsecured debt and as much as €1.5 billion of secured debt into shares to fix its balance sheet”. 

The separate proposals will be presented to Casino’s board of directors and then to the creditors at a separate meeting.

Kretinsky, who is the co-owner of West Ham United football club, was recently given the go-ahead to increase his stake in Royal Mail to 25% following a government probe.

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