Looks like an otherwise battered Indian telecom market (except Jio ofcourse), has caught the eye of global tech giants, all thanks to Jio’s massive fundraising off late. Google and Microsoft are considering entering India’s telecom market by investing in Vodafone inc. and Reliance Jio respectively, separate reports from Financial Times and Mint suggest.
A report from business publication Mint suggests that Microsoft is also gravitating towards Jio’s unprecedented growth rate. Thus, the company is looking to invest as much as $2 billion in the telecom operator, which has gone on to amass 388 million subscribers in its short history. This could net Microsoft more than 2.5% stake in the company, making it the largest shareholder after parent Reliance Industries and Facebook.
This wouldn’t be the first deal between the two companies. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella announced in February, a partnership between Microsoft and Reliance Jio, in which Reliance Jio plans to set up data centres across the country and use Microsoft Azure’s cloud services for enterprise clients.
Google is also in talks with Jio, Financial Times suggests. However, those talks probably didn’t bear any fruit, since the report said that the company is now planning to put its weight behind e a 5% stake in Vodafone Idea, the Vodafone UK backed second largest telecom operator in India, which is in a financially dire condition. The move will pit Google against Facebook and probably Microsoft as well (since the deal with Nadella hasn’t been confirmed) for a shot at the throne that is India’s telecom market.
Just weeks ago, Facebook made an investment worth $5.7 billion and landed itself a 9.99% stake in Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio. The company was launched just about 3 years ago and has already established itself as the biggest player in the market. The deal valued the company at a whopping $65.95 billion, and has made Facebook the largest minority stakeholder in the telecom operator. Since then, investments from global VC/PE giants such as KKR, General Atlantic and Vista equity have further boosted Jio’s cash registers.
However, even though Jio looked set to raise capital, the same does not look so clear for the likes of Vodafone Idea. Vodafone Idea, which is a JV between UK’s Vodafone Plc and India’s Idea, is struggling to say the least. Recent Supreme court judgement on ADR dues has blunted company’s already poor cash reserves. Such has been the condition, that it even asked the government to intervene, lest they’d have to shut down shop. It is unclear as to what Google plans to achieve with such a buy-out.
Jio on the other side, has managed to raise about $10 billion in the past weeks from deals with Facebook and private equity groups including KKR, General Atlantic, Vista Equity Partners and Silver Lake, significantly boosting its cash reserves, and setting it up well for upcoming 5G spectrum auctions.