Google spends $4.5b on Jio equity with pair to create entry-level phone

Search giant takes 7.73% stake in Indian telco and agrees to develop low-cost phone for India.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Google

It didn't take long for Google's $10 billion investment fund with India to begin draining away, with $4.5 billion being allocated for the purchase of a 7.73% stake in Indian telco Jio.

Google had previously said the fund would empower "businesses of all sizes, especially SMBs", but now, almost half of it has gone to a single telco that earlier this week took $1 billion from petrochemical giant BP for a Jio-bp joint venture. The telco has been selling slivers of its equity to megacorporations and private equity for months.

On Sunday, Jio announced it had sold 0.15% of its equity to Qualcomm Ventures. Qualcomm announced it had committed to investing up to ₹730 crore, around $97 million. Jio said the sale gave it an enterprise value of ₹5.16 lakh crore, just shy of $69 billion.

During May, Jio sold off parts of itself to private equity firms General Atlantic for ₹6,600 crore, Vista Equity Partners for ₹11,367 crore, Silver Lake put ₹5,656 crore into the company, and KKR invested ₹11,367 crore.

A month prior, Facebook parted with ₹43,574 crore for a 10% stake of the Indian telco. In June, the Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala Investment picked up a 1.85% stake in Jio for ₹9,093 crore.

As part of the Google investment, Jio and Google will create an entry-level Android phone that will have "optimisations to the Android operating system and the Play Store".

"Together we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners of smartphones," Google said in a blog post.

"We want to work with Jio and other leaders in the local ecosystem to ensure that smartphones -- together with the apps and services in the Play Store -- are within reach for many more Indians across the country.

"We look forward to bringing smartphone access to more Indians—and exploring the many ways we can work together to improve Indians' lives and advance India's digital economy."

For the full year ended March 31, Reliance Jio posted standalone net profit of ₹5,562 crore, an increase of 88% on the year prior.

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