Silver Lake is doubling down its bet on India's Reliance Jio Platforms. The U.S. private equity firm said Friday it is buying an additional stake worth $600 million in the top Indian telecom operator, which has now raised $12.2 billion in less than two months at the height of a global pandemic.
The Menlo Park-headquartered firm, which invested nearly $750 million in Reliance Jio Platforms last month, said the additional infusion increases its stake in the Indian firm to 2.08%, up from 1.15%.
Silver Lake's new investment is now the seventh deal Reliance Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of India's most valued firm (Reliance Industries), has secured in just as many weeks by selling nearly 20% stake. Earlier on Friday (local time), Abu Dhabi-based sovereign firm Mubadala said it would invest $1.2 billion in Jio, a firm run by Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man. Facebook, KKR, General Atlantic and Vista are the other investors that have wrote checks to Jio Platforms.
The announcement further captures the appeal of Jio Platforms, which has amassed more than 388 million subscribers in less than four years, to foreign investors looking for a slice of the world’s second-largest internet market.
Media reports have claimed in recent weeks that Amazon is considering buying stakes worth at least $2 billion in Bharti Airtel, India’s third largest telecom operator, while Google has held talks for a similar deal in Vodafone Idea, the second largest telecom operator.
Egon Durban, co-chief executive and managing partner at Silver Lake, said the recent investment momentum in Reliance Jio Platforms "validates a compelling business model and underscores our admiration for Mukesh Ambani, his team and their courageous vision in creating and building one of the world’s most remarkable technology companies."
“We are excited to increase our exposure and bring more of our co-investors into this opportunity, further supporting Jio Platforms in its mission to bring the power of high-quality and affordable digital services to a mass consumer and small businesses population," he added.
Silver Lake manages nearly $40 billion in combined assets and committed capital and has invested in dozens of tech firms over the years, including in video game engine maker Unity, audio and video communication service Skype, consultancy firm Gartner, Alibaba’s Ant Financial, computer giant Dell, and Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing.
Ambani is raising capital at least in part to cut his oil-to-retail giant Reliance Industries’ net debt of about $21 billion to zero by early 2021, a promise he made to shareholders earlier, said Mahesh Uppal, director of communications consultancy firm Com First. The company was debt free in 2012, but took loans to bankroll the creation of Jio Platforms.
"I would like to emphasise that Silver Lake’s additional investment in Jio Platforms, within a span of five weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a strong endorsement of the intrinsic resilience of the Indian economy, which will surely grow bigger with comprehensive digital enablement," said Ambani in a statement.