FACEBOOK WAS first to open its wallet. In April the social network said it would spend $5.7bn on a 9.9% stake in Jio Platforms, the digital arm of Reliance Industries, India’s biggest firm. The investment was followed in short order by nine other entities, including global private-equity (PE) giants such as KKR, as well as Saudi and Emirati sovereign-wealth funds. Collectively, this year foreigners have poured or pledged to pour $15.2bn into Jio. That would give them a combined stake of 25%. Microsoft is rumoured to be next in line.
For Reliance, the bonanza is a way to manage the huge debts it has taken out to bankroll Jio’s vaulting ambitions. For the foreigners, the appeal rests in part on its promise to tap into India’s underserved legions of digital consumers. Since its launch in 2016 Jio has become the country’s pre-eminent technology platform, with nearly 400m mobile subscribers, a broadband network, as well as entertainment, retail and finance businesses.
The investments were hailed by the local press and security analysts as an endorsement of a new digital champion—and of India itself. A recent flurry of dealmaking seems to corroborate this rosy view (see table). In February the Adani Group, another conglomerate, completed a $450m sale of 25% of its Mumbai power operations to Qatar’s government and received a $...
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