Reliance shareholders delighted by freebies

Mumbai: Though it was the shareholders’ meeting with arguably the most number of big ticket announcements, the offer to give bundled television sets and simultaneous movie releases on its digital platform caught investors’ fancy at Reliance Industries’ 42nd annual general meeting here Monday. The response to the slew of consumer-centric announcements was a higher than to the assurances of ‘abundantly’ rewarding shareholders through higher dividends and periodic bonuses, usually the most keenly tracked aspects at any AGMs.
In his nearly two-hour-long speech in the packed Birla Matoshri hall in south Mumbai, chairman Mukesh Ambani spoke on a variety of initiatives, including tie-ups with two companies, wherein the partners are valued at over $1 trillion each. The first is a 20 per cent stake buy by Saudi Aramco– the world’s largest company if listed today as it owns nearly fifth of the world’s oil reserves–in RIL’s oil and chemicals assets for $15 billion, and the second is an exclusive partnership with the global tech giant Microsoft on the cloud computing front to help local small businesses. There was also a Rs 7000 crore investment into RIL fuel retailing by the British energy major BP.
But none of them got the due attention from the shareholders. While there were the frequent appreciative claps at every assertion and announcement by the company chairman, the one on to release films on same day on its digital platform and bundling in of TV sets received the highest response. Not just the stadia-like hall, giant screens locked on the front row–members of the Ambani family and other key executives – showed in an eruption of joy at the ‘first day first show’ announcement.
A similar response was seen when Ambani announced free TV sets for its broadband users. “Jiofiber customers who opt for our annual plans which we call Jioforeever plans, will get an HD or 4K LED television and a 4K set-top box absolutely free,” Ambani said, with a huge plasma displaying the ‘ABSOLUTELY FREE’ in strikingly high font size. In the question and answer session that followed the speech, there was some evidence of the investors’ skepticism, as some of them went public with their unhappiness on dividends being paid by the company.
In a departure from the last year’s AGM, when Ambani had desisted from making any reference to the government or its schemes ahead of the elections, the AGM was pregnant with such mentions. He thanked Prime Minister Modi and Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammad bin Salman al Saud for blessing the deal where Aramco will be buying a fifth of its oil to chemicals business for $15 billion, and also mentioned about the re-elected PM’s aspiration to make the country a $5-trillion economy over the next five years.