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RIL gears up for new business, mega investment announcements

Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani is expected to announce a slew of new business initiatives, through multiple partnerships and potential acquisitions, when he addresses the company's shareholders this Friday.

business Updated: May 29, 2011 11:10 IST

Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani is expected to announce a slew of new business initiatives, through multiple partnerships and potential acquisitions, when he addresses the company's shareholders this Friday.

At RIL's 37th Annual General Meeting, Ambani may unveil a roadmap for the company's foray into new areas like financial services, telecom and power, as also the expansion of its existing businesses like energy, textiles and retail.

Informed sources said Ambani is likely to focus on new partnerships for various ventures, including RIL's proposed entry into financial services business in which it would rope in about half a dozen partners.

As of now, global private equity firm DE Shaw has been roped in but the entire gamut of financial services business would not be conducted through this partnership alone.

DE Shaw is involved in a court battle over its investment in the print media company Amar Ujala and the deal is also facing multiple probes, including by RBI and the government departments like FIPB (Foreign Investment Promotion Board).

Sources said that DE Shaw has been brought in mostly for the purpose of getting technical know-how of integrating information technology with the financial products.

RIL, which is looking to bring in fourth-generation (4G) telecom services into the country, plans to offer financial service products on a broadband platform and the DE Shaw tie-up would come in handy on this front.

The group is already talking to about half a dozen global majors in financial services segment and some announcements are likely in this regard on June 3.

For the probable partners, names like American Express are doing the rounds. Besides, global names like Verizon, AT&T, France Telecom and Alcatel Lucent are being speculated as possible partners for the telecom venture, although there is no official word as yet.

The group's proclamation, through Mukesh Ambani's letter to shareholders in the annual report for 2010-11, about its intention to bring on board new partners of international scale continues to give rise to speculations about the possible partners.

Accordingly, expectations have grown for the AGM to be held at Birla Matushri auditorium in South Mumbai, which has been hosting RIL's annual shareholder meet for many years now with packed-to-wall presence and a long queue starts building up since early morning for the 11 am meeting.

At last year's AGM, Ambani had announced his intention to double RIL's enterprise value from $80 billion dollars in less than a decade and the shareholders at this year's meeting would look for progress made on this front.

RIL's investment plans currently run into Rs 1,50,000 crore and some announcements are likely on this front as well.

Last week, global financial services major HSBC had said in an equity research report that cash-abundant RIL might soon announce overseas acquisitions and a faster rollout of its telecom services.

In April, the company said in an investor presentation that it would pursue both organic and inorganic.

Besides, it disclosed an "investment programme of over $10 billion to cater to domestic market" in petrochemicals.

At an investor conference in February, RIL had projected investment totalling $25-30 billion (Rs 1,10,000-1,35,000 crore) for the next five years in its various businesses, including energy and telecom sectors.

RIL has identified 'new partnerships' as the core vehicle for its growth initiatives going ahead, after successfully entering into over 50 partnerships over the past five years, including a tie-up with global energy giant BP.

Commenting on RIL's sale of 30 per cent stake in its 23 oil and gas blocks to BP, HSBC report also said that RIL faces an "abundance of cash" post this transaction.

"RIL has already received $2 billion and another $5.2 billion is expected to come in over the next 12 months.

RIL's cash balance nearly doubled to a record high level of over Rs 42,000 crore in the last fiscal ended March 31, while its very low debt-equity ratio can allow the group to borrow further funds for various businesses.

Last year, RIL had raised $1.5 billion of debt in dollar-denominated bonds at very competitive rates and talks are already on for overseas borrowing of an equal amount.

RIL's revenue rose by 29 per cent in the fiscal to Rs 258,651 crore, while its net profit increased by 25 per cent to Rs 20,286 crore.