5G will take center stage at Reliance’s 2021 annual shareholders meeting

Calculated moves.
Calculated moves.
Image: Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas
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Mukesh Ambani has been increasingly known for making big-bang announcements at Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) annual general meetings.

Last year, India’s richest man announced a major investment by Google of 33,737 crore Indian rupees ($4.5 billion) in Jio Platforms, the unit housing the company’s digital businesses, for a 7.7% stake. The year before that, RIL announced major investments to create digital infrastructure across India. And in 2018 it launched JioGigaFiber, a fixed-line broadband service, as well as a high-end variant of its popular JioPhone.

As India’s largest private-sector firm gears up for its 44th annual general meeting on June 24, market experts expect updates around the company’s first 5G phone and next-generation wireless plans, JioMart’s grocery venture with Facebook’s WhatsApp, and announcements on JioBook, a low-cost affordable laptop from Reliance Jio.

Reliance’s 5G plans

Last year, Mukesh Ambani announced that Reliance Jio, the telecom subsidiary housed under Jio Platforms, and Google had agreed to jointly develop an entry-level affordable 5G Android smartphone.

Ambani also said that his company had designed and developed 5G capabilities, a first for an Indian firm, which will be ready for deployment this year. Earlier this month, RIL started conducting its 5G trials in Mumbai. The telecom company also stated that it is in discussions with Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson about conducting 5G testing in other locations across India as well.

“The solution will enable us to launch a world-class 5G service in India,” Ambani had said during his address at the AGM in July last year.

Now, on June 24, the industry is expecting an update on the deployment date or to know if the pandemic has impacted the company’s plans.

Reliance Jio has registered for 5G trials in various cities, including Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, and Gujarat, as have other telecoms.

Saudi Aramco’s chairman on Reliance’s board?

Many expect the company to make an announcement of the appointment of Saudi Aramco chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who is also the governor of the kingdom’s wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF), to its board.

In 2019, RIL and Saudi Aramco reached a $15 billion deal, with the latter buying a 20% stake in Ambani’s RIL, for which oil and chemicals still remains its core business. Under the agreement, Saudi Aramco agreed to supply 500,000 barrels of crude oil every day to Reliance’s Jamnagar refinery in Gujarat state.

RIL’s Jamnagar refinery in Gujarat has the capacity to process 1.4 million barrels per day and the company plans to expand its capacity to two million BPD by 2030.

Notably, PIF has already picked up a minority stake in Reliance Retail and Jio in 2020.

Reliance’s financials

According to its integrated annual report (pdf) last month, the company in the financial year 2020-21 witnessed a net profit of Rs53,739 crore ($7.2 billion). It also successfully raised funds from its various units despite the pandemic-triggered slump.

Investors will be looking for spot updates to the company’s progress on customer acquisition in the current financial year, and its outlook for investment.

How to watch the Reliance AGM 2021 live

The annual general meeting of Reliance, whenever held physically in the last few years, marked the presence of at least 3,000 shareholders. In 2020, when it was held virtually, it witnessed 300,000 viewers across 42 countries and 468 cities, many of them using Reliance’s own JioMeet video conferencing platform.

This year’s meeting, which will begin at 2pm IST (930am UK/430am ET), will again be live-streamed on JioMeet for shareholders, with the link opening up half an hour before the call.

“Over the past year, new investors have joined RIL’s digital and retail business at a subsidiary level and RIL has formed new partnerships with global players like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Qualcomm, etc. Investors now expect RIL to give direction to these businesses and announce ground-breaking products,” brokerage HSBC Global Research said in its recent report.

Like last year, the meeting should also be streamed live on Jio’s YouTube channel.

The market, of course, will be watching closely. So far in 2021, RIL stock has already rallied 12.1% and in the last 12 months, it has witnessed a jump of 34.4%.