India’s Jio investment bonanza ends – for now at least

News

Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) $1.5 billion concludes the round of funding that has raised $22.1 billion over the last two months.

The PIF now owns a 2.32% stake in Jio Platforms, which is Reliance Industries’ digital business, including its high disruptive and successful mobile unit.

Reliance Industries is now net debt free, as its MD and Chair Mukesh Ambani, had promised, but ten months ahead of the deadline of 31 March 2021. Ambani has also said he would float the two consumer businesses, Jio and Reliance Retail, within five years.

Facebook, Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, General Atlantic, KKR, Mubadala, ADIA, TPG, and L Catterton have also invested recently.

Much of that debt arose from entry into the mobile market, undercutting rivals, offering 4G-only and improving customer experience, especially service activation.

Under pressure

Jio has put its rivals, including Vodafone Idea (which merged in 2017 better to compete) and Bharti Airtel, under intense pressure.

Their distress was increased greatly by a Supreme Court ruling last October which widened the net regarding fees, penalties, interest and taxes.

Vodafone Idea has threatened to pull out of the market unless more favourable terms are granted, and the Supreme Court is mulling this now after months of wrangling which brought the Court and the government departments into conflict.

The government does not want a monopoly or duopoly market, believing less competition will not serve customers or the country’s economy well in the longer term.

Vodafone Idea too has received interest from Google, and other big tech companies including Amazon and Microsoft are rumoured to be eying the Indian mobile market, one of the world’s largest.