Google has agreed to invest Rs 33,737 crore to buy a 7.7 per cent stake in Reliance Industries” technology venture, adding to a slew of investments since April that has crossed Rs 1.52 lakh crore.
California-based Alphabet Inc joins Facebook Inc, which opened the investment cycle in Jio Platforms by picking 9.99 per cent stake for Rs 43,573.62 crore, as well as chipmaker Intel Corp and Qualcomm Inc.
“We are delighted to welcome Google as a strategic investor in Jio Platforms. We have signed a binding partnership and an investment agreement under which Google will invest Rs 33,737 crores for a 7.7 per cent stake in Jio Platforms,” RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani said at the company”s annual general meeting.
With Google coming on board, Reliance has completed its target of capital raising for Jio Platforms, he said. With this deal, Reliance has sold 32.84 per cent stake in Jio Platforms Ltd – the unit that houses India”s youngest but largest telecom firm Jio Infocomm and apps. In total, Jio has raised Rs 1,52,055.45 crore.
Google, which is the 13th marquee firm to have set a sight on India”s hottest digital play in 12 weeks, values Jio Platforms at Rs 4.36 lakh crore. This is less than Rs 4.91 lakh crore value at which last investor, Qualcomm had invested just last week. Proceeds from the stake sales in Jio Platforms, along with the Rs 53,124 crore raised in a rights issue in June and sale of a 49 per cent stake in its fuel retail network to BP last summer for Rs 7,629 crore will help the company become net debt-free, Ambani said.
This debt-free status will be in place after the promised funds come in (75 per cent of the funds from the rights issue will come in next year). Reliance had a net debt of Rs 1,61,035 crore as on March 31, 2020.
It has already received subscription amounts Rs 73,636.43 crore from Facebook, L Catterton, Public Investment Fund, Silver Lake and General Atlantic. Ambani said the the cumulative fund raising by Reliance in less than three months is now Rs 2,12,809 crore.
This includes investments by Facebook and other investors in Jio Platforms and Rs 53,124 crore rights issue, and investment by BP in fuel retailing venture.
“It is in excess of our net debt of Rs 1,61,035 crore at the end of FY19-20,” he said. “Reliance is now truly a zero net debt company, well ahead of my goal of March 2021. It has an extremely strong Balance Sheet that will support growth plans for its three hyper-growth engines — Jio, retail and oil-to-chemical (O2C)”.
Reliance has concluded its joint venture with BP in the existing fuel retailing business. “BP has invested Rs 7,629 crore for their 49 per cent stake in the JV,” he said.
Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), said, “Google has empowered millions of Indians to access helpful information and, like Jio, is a force for change and innovation”.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said, “Reliance Industries, and Jio Platforms in particular, deserve a good deal of credit for India’s digital transformation.
“The pace and scale of digital transformation in India is hugely inspiring for us and reinforces our view that building products for India first helps us build better products for users everywhere. Google is proud to invest Rs 33,737 crore into Jio. I am excited that our joint collaboration will focus on increasing access for hundreds of millions of Indians who don”t currently own a smartphone while improving the mobile experience for all.”
The Jio Platforms deal spree began on April 22 when social networking giant Facebook agreed to acquire 9.99 per cent for Rs 43,573.62 crore.
Since then, six US private equity firms invested in Jio: Silver Lake Partners bought 2.08 per cent for Rs 10,202.55 crore, Vista Equity Partners paid Rs 11,367 crore for a 2.32 per cent stake, General Atlantic acquired a 1.34 per cent stake for Rs 6,598.38 crore, KKR paid Rs 11,367 crore for a 2.32 per cent stake, TPG bought a 0.93 per cent stake for Rs 4,546.80 crore and L Catterton picked up 0.39 per cent for Rs 1,894.50 crore.
Earlier this month, the investment arm of computer chip giant Intel Corp picked up 0.39 per cent stake for Rs 1,894.50 crore.
Jio Platforms has also received a funds from the Middle East which started with Mubadala Investment Co which picked up a 1.85 per cent stake for Rs 9,093.60 crore and was followed by Saudi Arabia”s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, as well as the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority buying 2.32 per cent and 1.16 per cent stake for Rs 11,367 crore and Rs 5,683.50 crore, respectively.
Qualcomm invested Rs 730 crore for a 0.15 per cent stake. Jio Platforms – which is also amassing a wide range of services from music streaming to online retail and payments – is expected to use its 388 million mobile phone subscribers as the cornerstone of an e-commerce and digital services business to rival Amazon and Walmart”s Flipkart.
Jio has become Reliance”s growth engine, combining with the company”s fast-growing retail arm to help in offsetting the decline in oil and petrochemicals. Ambani had in August last year announced talks for sale of a 20 per cent in the oil-to-chemical (O2C) business to Saudi Aramco for USD 15 billion. However, the recent plunge in oil prices has left that deal under a cloud of uncertainty, although Reliance has said it is on track.