By Prashant Mehra
MUMBAI, June 6 Indian conglomerate Reliance
Industries Ltd will spend more than $26 billion across
its businesses over three years, it said on Thursday, giving few
details of plans for its long-anticipated launch of 4G
Reliance, India's fourth-largest company by market value,
has been under pressure from investors worried by its slowing
natural gas business and its drive into consumer sectors such as
telecoms and retail.
Reliance has for years looked to diversify beyond its core
energy business, but profits have been elusive.
Reliance Jio Infocomm, its telecoms unit, is the only Indian
company to have nationwide permits for 4G services. Nearly three
years after acquiring the airwaves, it is yet to start
Chairman Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, told
shareholders at the company's annual general meeting that he had
a bullish view of the potential for digital services in India,
and the unit would more than triple its headcount to 10,000 over
next year, but did not say when services will be launched.
"Let me assure sceptics that my continued optimism is based
on the significant strides that we at Reliance have taken in the
past year - towards engineering and testing a world-class
broadband network, and in developing a suite of compelling and
synergistic digital services," he said.
"Our impatience to reach our goal demands a sense of
urgency, but not careless haste," Ambani said, amid speculation
that the company will make its commercial 4G network launch
later this year.
$26 BLN INVESTMENT PLAN
Reliance Jio has finalised key vendors and suppliers
required for the initial launch of the services, Ambani said.
"Together with our partners, we have charted an ambitious
plan for the next 12 months, and we at Reliance Jio foresee
making rapid progress over this period towards launching our
services across India," he said.
Shares in Reliance were down 1.1 percent at 793.40 rupees at
0708 GMT in a Mumbai market that was down 0.1 percent.
The stock was about 0.5 percent lower before Ambani began his
Reliance is making investments exceeding 1.5 trillion rupees
($26.4 billion) across its five business areas - energy
exploration and production, petroleum refining and marketing,
petrochemicals, retail, and 4G, Ambani said.
Referring to the gas discovery that Reliance, along with
partners BP Plc and Niko Resources Ltd,
announced last month in the KG-D6 block off India's east coast,
Ambani said more prospects have been lined up for exploration
drilling over the next few quarters.
He said various "production augmentation efforts" were
underway to maximise recovery from existing fields in KG D6
block, where output has disappointed expectations.