Ambani’s Jio sells $873m stake as e-commerce drive attracts General Atlantic
Mumbai — Billionaire Mukesh Ambani extended his fundraising streak for Jio Platforms by selling an $873m stake to General Atlantic, an early investor in Airbnb and Uber Technologies.
The US-based private equity fund’s agreement to take a 1.3% stake sets an enterprise value of 5.16-trillion rupees ($68bn) for the digital services business of Ambani’s Reliance Industries, the Mumbai-based company said.
The transaction takes investment raised by Jio in recent weeks to almost $9bn, including stakes sold to Facebook, Silver Lake and Vista Equity Partners. The deal announced late on Sunday also broadens backing for Jio’s plan to use its almost 400-million mobile phone subscribers as a base for an e-commerce drive to shake up India’s vast consumer markets from retail to education and payments.
“We are delighted that a renowned global investor like General Atlantic is partnering with us in our journey to digitally empower India and Indians,” said Akash Ambani, director of Reliance Jio, and chair Mukesh Ambani’s son.
The funds also support Ambani’s vow to pay down more than $20bn of net debt at Reliance earlier than an initial March 2021 deadline.
Reliance Industries shares fell as much as 2.2% to 1,428 rupees in early trading Monday in Mumbai. The stock has gained about 55% since talks on the Facebook stake purchase were reported in late March.
Mukesh Ambani, 63, formed Jio Platforms by combining the conglomerate’s digital apps and wireless carrier, Reliance Jio Infocomm, into a holding company.
Started in 2016, it is now India’s largest after storming past rivals by building a nationwide 4G network, then offering free calling and data services at prices established competitors with older networks could not match without losing money.
Saudi Arabia’s $320bn sovereign wealth fund is also considering purchasing a minority stake in Jio, Bloomberg News reported on May 9.
Ambani, Asia’s richest man, is also seeking to raise about $7bn selling shares to existing holders as part of a drive to build confidence in his oil, telecommunications and retail conglomerate. The offering, set to open May 20 and close June 3, includes a promise from the billionaire and the largest investors to acquire their full allotment, plus any shares left by minority shareholders.
Payments for rights offer, priced at 1,257 rupees a share, will be staggered with 25% on application, another 25% in a year and the balance by November 2021.
The Ambani plans for Jio also put the company into more direct competition with giants including Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc., both of which have spent big to enter India, the world’s biggest open consumer market. China, the only other country with more than 1-billion people, restricts access.
Facebook, for example, says it already has 400-million users in India, while its service is blocked in China. The world’s largest global social network is working to integrate Jio’s e-commerce business, JioMart, into its WhatsApp messaging application in India, a step that could allow the platform to piggyback on the service’s hundreds of millions of users.