Vista Equity Partners to invest $1.5B in Indian telecom giant Reliance Jio Platforms

Private equity firm Vista Equity Partners said on Friday it would invest $1.5 billion in Reliance Jio Platforms, joining social conglomerate Facebook and private equity firm Silver Lake that have also made similar bets on the Indian telecom giant in recent weeks.

The planned announcement, which would give U.S.-headquartered software-focused buyout firm Vista Equity Partners a 2.32% stake in Reliance Jio Platforms, values India’s top telecom operator at $65 billion (equity valuation) — the same valuation implied by the Silver Lake investment, the Indian firm said.

Reliance Jio Platforms, which began its commercial operation in the second half of 2016, upended the local telecom market by offering bulk of 4G data and voice calls for six months to users at no charge. A subsidiary of Reliance Industries (India’s most valuable firm by market value), Jio Platforms has amassed 388 million subscribers since its launch to become the nation’s top telecom operator.

The Indian firm said on Friday that it aims to make Reliance Jio Platforms, in which it has poured more than $30 billion over the years, “a global technology leader and among the leading digital economies in the world.”

Vista, which began investing in software firms 20 years ago, said it would explore ways to expand the reach of its portfolio companies’ products and services in India.

“We are thrilled to join Jio Platforms to deliver exponential growth in connectivity across India, providing modern consumer, small business and enterprise software to fuel the future of one of the world’s fastest growing digital economies,” said Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista in a statement.

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The new commitment would help India’s richest man, Mukhesh Ambani, who runs Reliance Industries, further cement his last year’s commitment to investors when he said he aimed to cut Reliance’s net debt of about $21 billion to zero by early 2021. Its core business, oil refining and petrochemicals, has been hard hit amid the coronavirus outbreak. Its net profit in the quarter that ended on March 31 fell by 37%.

In the company’s earnings call last month, Ambani said several firms had expressed interest in buying stakes in Jio Platforms in the wake of the deal with Facebook.

Facebook said that other than offering capital to Jio Platforms for a 9.99% stake in the firm, it would work with the Indian giant on a number of areas starting with e-commerce. Days later, JioMart, an e-commerce venture run by India’s most valued firm, began testing an “ordering system” on WhatsApp, the most popular smartphone app in India with over 400 million active users in the world’s second largest internet market.

More to follow…

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