Saudis, General Atlantic may invest in Reliance unit

Big deal: Mukesh Ambani is seen with his wife Neeta in a Reliance event in Mumbai. The billionaire has recently sealed a US$8bil deal in Jio’s digital unit. — AP

MUMBAI: The Saudi sovereign wealth fund and General Atlantic are among firms exploring investments in billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s digital business, as Asia’s richest man seeks to expand his operations outside oil and petrochemicals, sources said.

Saudi Arabia’s US$320bil Public Investment Fund is considering buying a minority stake in Reliance Industries Ltd’s Jio Platforms unit, according to the sources.

General Atlantic, the US investment firm that helped fund Airbnb Inc and Uber Technologies Inc, is discussing a potential investment of US$850mil to US$950mil in Jio Platforms, the sources said. The deal could be completed as soon as this month, though no agreement has been finalised and plans may change, the sources said.

Any new investment into Jio Platforms will add to the US$8bil deal run that Ambani has sealed in recent weeks. Facebook Inc in April agreed to pay US$5.7bil for a 10% stake in the digital unit, while Silver Lake Partners and Vista Equity Partners last week said they would invest about US$2.25bil in total.

Investors are betting on Jio’s access to India’s huge consumer market, and its potential to shake up traditional industries in the country – from retail to education and payments – with its technology. India is the only major open Internet market where foreign technology giants such as Inc, Walmart Inc and Google’s parent Alphabet Inc can compete for market share.

The string of investments from technology giants and private equity firms will go toward slashing debt at Reliance Industries, which is controlled by Ambani.

The outside money also helps set a valuation for Jio, which until recently has been largely owned by the billionaire’s conglomerate.

Representatives for Reliance Industries and Saudi’s Public Investment Fund didn’t respond to requests for comment, while General Atlantic declined to comment.

Shares of Reliance Industries rose as much as 3.4% and touched their highest level since Dec 20 yesterday in Mumbai. — Bloomberg
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