Facebook Inc on Wednesday announced it has bought a 9.99% stake in Reliance-owned Jio Platforms for $5.7 billion, or Rs 43,574 crore, as the social media company looks to expand its presence in its largest market in terms of subscriber base. Facebook Inc Chairperson Mark Zuckerberg said the investment deal will help people and businesses in India create new opportunities amid the countrywide lockdown to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, News18 reported.
“Today [Wednesday], we are announcing a $5.7 billion, or Rs 43,574 crore, investment in Jio Platforms Limited, part of Reliance Industries Limited, making Facebook its largest minority shareholder,” the company said in a statement.
Zuckerberg said Facebook and Jio Platforms will work together on “some major projects that will open up commerce opportunities for people across India”.
“India is home to the largest communities on Facebook and WhatsApp, and a lot of talented entrepreneurs,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “The country is in the middle of a major digital transformation and organisations like Jio have played a big part in getting hundreds of millions of Indian people and small businesses online.”
The announcement comes amid the escalating global coronavirus crisis, which has upended lives and businesses across the world, bringing the global economy to a standstill. Zuckerberg said the investment was “especially important” right now, because “small businesses are the core of every economy and they need our support”.
“India has more than 60 million small businesses and millions of people rely on them for jobs,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”
The stocks of Reliance Industry Limited gained over 9.83% to Rs 1,359 on the NSE in the trade on Wednesday. For Reliance, whose debt pile swelled to more than $40 billion as of September, the partnership will bring in much needed funds to make good on its promise to cut net debt to zero by March 2021.
Later, Reliance also issued a statement saying both companies will work on projects to open up commerce opportunities in India. It said this was the largest investment for a minority stake by a technology sector of the country.
Meanwhile, Reliance chairperson Mukesh Ambani said the partnership was based on a commitment to create “all-round digital transformation of India”. “In the post-corona[virus] era, I am confident of India’s economic recovery and resurgence in the shortest period of time. The partnership will surely make an important contribution to this transformation,” he said in a statement.
The main focus of the deal is to come up with digital based solutions for 60 million micro, small and medium businesses, 120 million farmers, 30 million small merchants and millions of small and medium enterprises in the informal sector, he said. “In the very near future, JioMart – Jio’s digital new commerce platform, and Whatsapp – will empower nearly 3 crore small Indian Kirana shops to digitally transact with every customer in their neighbourhood,” Ambani added. “This means all of you can order and get faster delivery of day-to-day items, from nearby local shops.”