Facebook Closes $5.7B Deal For Stake In India’s Reliance Jio

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Facebook closed a $5.7 billion deal on Tuesday (April 21) for a minority stake in Indian telecom startup Reliance Jio, giving the social media giant a larger foothold in the region. 

“This investment underscores our commitment to India and our excitement for the dramatic transformation that Jio has spurred in the country,” David Fischer, chief revenue officer, and Ajit Mohan, vice president and managing director for India, wrote in a Facebook blog post

The deal marks Facebook’s biggest minority stake investment in one company and also makes it the largest minority shareholder in the country’s most popular telecom firm. The deal also marks the largest investment for a minority stake by a technology company anywhere in the world and the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the technology sector in India, according to a blog post by Reliant. 

“When Reliance launched Jio in 2016, we were driven by the dream of … India’s Inclusive Digital Rise to improve the quality of life of every single Indian and to propel India as the world’s leading Digital Society,” said Mukesh Ambani, founder and chief executive officer of Reliance Industries Limited. The deal gives Jio a pre-money enterprise valuation of almost $66 billion.

He added that the partnership will also “help realize Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s Digital India Mission with its two ambitious goals — Ease of Living and Ease of Doing Business — for every single category of Indian people without exception.” Ambani, India’s richest man, is an ally of Modi.

Reliance Jio also owns a suite of services including music streaming service JioSaavn, on-demand live television service JioTV, and payments service JioPay.

“India has more than 60 million small businesses and millions of people rely on them for jobs. With communities around the world in lockdown, many of these entrepreneurs need digital tools they can rely on to find and communicate with customers and grow their businesses. This is something we can help with — and that’s why we’re partnering with Jio to help people and businesses in India create new opportunities,” founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.

Facebook has been actively investing in India in the past few months — it invested $25 million in social commerce startup Meesho and pumped in around $20 million in edtech startup Unacademy. Back in 2014, Facebook had acquired Bengaluru-based Little Eye Labs in a $10-15 million deal.

Facebook and Jio had been in talks for a deal, but the coronavirus pandemic stalled the negotiations. Silicon Valley has had a tough time penetrating the Indian market because of the government’s additional restrictions on foreign firms. The country currently has a Personal Data Protection Bill on the table.