Swedish kit vendor Ericsson is doing its AGM remotely today coz of coronavirus and CEO Börje Ekholm offered a general update ahead of it.

While he would clear far rather be talking about how great Ericsson is at 5G, there was no attempt to dodge the only story in town – the pandemic that has turned everything upside down. ”Our top priority at the moment is the health and safety of our employees, customers, and other stakeholders,” said Ekholm. “So far, we have not seen any material impact on our business, but we are closely following the developments in society.”

While that was a heavily nuanced statement, with the definition of ‘material impact’ being unclear for starters, it was encouraging to hear that things are still going OK. Having said that the really major global disruption has only been happening for a month so its effect on the Ericsson bottom line may well have been delayed.

Moving quickly on, Ekholm wasted little time in chucking some 5G numbers around, as has become the norm among the big kit vendors. “Right now we have 86 commercial 5G agreements and 27 live networks in 4 continents. Ericsson is leading the 5G development. I see no one in front of us.” Nokia’s latest total for 5G deal wins is 69 and, the last time we got an update from Huawei, its total was 91. That’s presumably a bit higher now, but we didn’t get a new number today.

Ekholm couldn’t resist a bit of patent talk, despite profound scepticism about the utility of such claims. “Ericsson’s leadership position is clearly reflected in our patent portfolio, consisting of more than 54,000 granted patents. However, patents are about both quality and quantity; an independent law firm found Ericsson to have the leading share of relevant 5G patents, which bodes very well for the future.”

The rest of his comments were designed to reassure shareholders that Ericsson is in a strong position to weather this storm. It has a few krona in the bank and feels good about 5G momentum, so fair enough. The juggling act all individuals, companies and governments have to perform at this time involves making the necessary immediate adjustments to get through the pandemic, while at the same time ensuring they’re best positioned to bounce back when things return to something approaching normal.

You can watch Ekholm’s full address, as well as the rest of the AGM material here. It’s worth doing for a reminder of what a cool language Swedish is alone, but there’s also the entertainment of checking out the interior of Ekholm’s house. Is that an Ikea chest of drawers? Probably not.


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