Despite the economic slowdown in India for the past few quarters, the potential in the country as viewed by transnational corporations operating here has not diminished. An association between Facebook and Reliance Jio where the former would acquire some stake in the Indian telecom operator’s business, is on the cards, according to a report in the Financial Times citing sources who are aware of the matter. According to this report, the stake offered is 10% and could be worth a few billion dollars, and talks have already been initiated. As per analysts, Reliance Jio is being valued at $60 billion+.
Apart from Facebook, two other US giants, Google and Microsoft are also reportedly in some form of association with Reliance Jio. Microsoft is partnering with the Indian company in the cloud computing business and an official announcement had already been made on this last year by the American company.
Details of Google’s discussions with Jio are not available.
Facebook is forced to take a stronger position in India since a lot is at stake. The country has close to 500 million internet users which is likely to increase to 850 million by 2022. In terms of mobile phone users, India is now the second largest market after China having pushed the US to the third spot. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has 400 million subscribers in India, the largest for any country it operates in.
These companies may still have to contend with regulatory issues in the Indian context. The government has passed a Personal Data Protection Bill. There are stipulations that all data that the companies collect from the Indian population has to be maintained in servers physically located here.
Reliance has been working on a plan to reduce the huge debt burden it has accumulated over the years. In the last AGM, Chairman Mukesh Ambani had made an announcement that Saudi Aramco is making a huge $15 billion investment for a 20% stake in Reliance’s petrochemical business.
The company wants to bring down the debt to zero on its books by March 2021.