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Facebook in talks to acquire 10% stake in Jio


Social media behemoth Facebook is in talks to acquire a 10% stake in Indian telecom giant Reliance Jio.

For the first time, the top telecom operator with 370 million subscribers, will dilute its stake for a strategic investment. Till date, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industry Limited has infused over $25 billion capital in the subsidiary.

The Mark Zuckerberg-led company was close to signing a preliminary deal with Jio. However, worldwide travel ban due to coronavirus pandemic has postponed the agreement further, says a report published in Financial Times.

Acquiring a stake in Jio is likely to be a multi-billion dollar deal as Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC had valued the telecom company at over $60 billion.

The stake sale would be important for Reliance Jio, as the company is looking to pay back most of its debt by 2021. The company had reported total debt of nearly Rs 1,450 crore in FY19 and was forecasted to reach more than Rs 1,700 crore by the end of FY 2021. 

As per Bernstein analysts, Neil Beveridge and Chris Lane, RIL’s wholly-owned subsidiary is expected to post a profit next year, and by FY23 it will likely overtake RIL’s energy business to become the largest Ebitda contributor. 

Apart from telecom, Jio has a gamut of products, including digital payments via UPI, music streaming app JioSaavn, grocery platform JioMart, on-demand tv service JioTv, among several others.

Recently, Jio had applied for permission from the government to undertake 5G trials. If allowed, Jio will be the first company to offer 5G services based on technology and design developed by itself.

For Facebook, Jio will be the third investment in India. In the past nine months, it had invested $25 million in social commerce startup Meesho and pumped in around $20 million in edtech startup Unacademy.

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