After TCS, Reliance Industries will hold its first virtual AGM on July 15

The company that is widely credited with having launched the equity culture in India, held AGMs in stadiums during times of its founder Dhirubhai Ambani

After Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Reliance Industries will hold its first virtual annual general meeting of shareholders on July 15 as public gatherings are not possible in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a regulatory filing, Reliance - the country's most valuable company- said "the 43rd AGM will be held on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 2 pm though video conferencing / other audio-visual means."

TCS held virtual annual general meeting (AGM) on June 11.

Due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has permitted to hold AGM through video conference / other audio visual means without the physical presence of members at a common venue.

So far, all the post-IPO AGMs of Reliance have been physical meetings that have often been equated with big fat Indian weddings.

The company that is widely credited with having launched the equity culture in India, held AGMs in stadiums during times of its founder Dhirubhai Ambani.

In 1985, 12,000 of them attended the Reliance AGM at the Cooperage Football Ground in Mumbai's Colaba. The next year, around 35,000 attended it at the city's Cross Maidan.

Over the years, the AGMs got shifted to auditoriums even as its shareholder base swelled to over 24 lakh.

At the last AGM on August 12, 2019, the firm's billionaire chairman Mukesh Ambani announced a roadmap for Reliance to become a net-debt free company before March 31, 2021.

"We have a very clear roadmap to becoming a zero net debt company within the next 18 months that is by March 31, 2021," he had said, highlighting strong interest from strategic and financial investors in consumer businesses, Jio and Reliance Retail.

But the oil-to-telecom conglomerate achieved net-debt free status last week itself on the back of a record Rs 1.69 trillion fund raising from stake sales and rights issue.

Reliance secured over Rs 1.15 trillion from global tech investors including Facebook by selling a little less than a quarter of its digital business and raised Rs 53,124 crore by selling shares to existing investors in the past 58 days.

Taken together with last year's sale of 49 per cent stake in fuel retailing venture to BP Plc of UK for Rs 7,000 crore, the total fund raised is in excess of Rs 1.75 trillion, the company had said last week.

Reliance had a net debt of Rs 161,035 crore as on March 31, 2020. "With these investments, RIL has become net-debt free," it had said.

At the last AGM, Ambani had also announced plans to sell a $15 billion stake in his group's oil-to-chemical business to Saudi Arabian Oil Co but the deal has got slightly delayed.

Not to be outdone by the delay, he lured partners to Jio Platforms Ltd, which houses India's biggest telecom firm by subscribers, Reliance Jio.

With more than 388 million users, Jio has forced out several rivals and driven consolidation in the sector since entering the market in 2016 with free voice services and cut-price data.

Sale of stake in Jio Platforms raised Rs 115,693.95 crore from leading global investors including Facebook, Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, General Atlantic, KKR, Mubadala, ADIA, TPG, L Catterton and PIF since April 22, 2020.

Alongside, Reliance launched India's biggest right issue, which was subscribed 1.59 times.

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