Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund invests $1.5bn in Jio Platforms

The Public Investment Fund acquires a 2.32% stake, bringing the total investment secured by Reliance Industries for the venture to about $15.2bn since April

The investment arm of computer chip giant Intel agreed to buy a 0.39 per cent stake in Jio Platforms. Bloomberg
The investment arm of computer chip giant Intel agreed to buy a 0.39 per cent stake in Jio Platforms. Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, is investing about $1.5bn (Dh5.48bn/113.67bn Indian rupees) in Reliance Industries' Jio Platforms in return for a 2.32 per cent stake.

The fund's backing brings the total amount raised in equity sales in Jio Platforms since the start of April to about $15.2bn, Reliance Industries said in a statement.

The latest deal follows recent investments from Facebook, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Mubadala Investment Company private equity firms KKR, TPG, Silver Lake Capital, Vista Equity Partners and General Atlantic.

“We are delighted to be investing in an innovative business which is at the forefront of the transformation of the technology sector in India," said Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund.

"We believe that the potential of the Indian digital economy is very exciting and that Jio Platforms provides us with an excellent opportunity to gain access to that growth," he added. "This investment will also enable us to generate significant long-term commercial returns for the benefit of Saudi Arabia's economy and our country's citizens, in line with our mandate to safeguard and grow the national wealth of the kingdom."

Reliance Industries, controlled by Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani, is India’s largest private sector company, with a consolidated turnover of $87.1bn and a net profit of $5.3bn for the year ended March 31, 2020.

The company has interests in a range of sectors from oil-to-textiles, but has been building Jio Platforms, which houses movie streaming, music apps and telecoms venture Jio Infocomm, for four years.

The platform already has 388 million subscribers, with the ambition to create a "Digital India", bringing online services to all of the country's 1.3 billion people.

“We at Reliance have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for many decades. From [the] oil economy, this relationship is now moving to strengthen India's new oil (data-driven) economy," Mr Ambani said. "I welcome PIF as a valued partner in Jio Platforms and look forward to their sustained support and guidance as we take ambitious steps to accelerate India's digital transformation."

PIF centres its international acquisitions around "generating significant long-term commercial returns to the benefit of Saudi citizens", in line with its mandate under the kingdom's Vision 2030 diversification plan, it said in its statement.

Building Jio Platforms has been an expensive business for Reliance Industries, which had amassed up to $20bn in debt by March 2019 as a price war ensued in a battle for market share.

However, the company has now recouped a significant chunk of this through stake sales and has reportedly been in talks with investment banks about a potential initial public offering of its shares on an international stock exchange.

Published: June 18, 2020 05:22 PM

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