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Google is in advanced talks to invest close to $4 billion into Reliance Industries Ltd’s digital assets unit as the search giant seeks to join a host of marquee investors, including rival Facebook Inc., in tapping India’s vast but nascent internet market, two people directly aware of the development said.

The investment, if it comes through, will be another feather in the cap of billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who has raised a record 1.18 trillion since 22 April by selling stakes in Jio Platforms Ltd to a dozen of the world’s biggest investors. The Google investment will take the total fundraising to 1.48 trillion.

The discussions are at a fairly advanced stage and would likely lead to Google buying more than 6% stake in Jio Platforms, the people said, requesting anonymity.

The investment pattern
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The investment pattern


Jio Platforms has so far received investments from a clutch of strategic and financial investors, including Facebook, Intel, Qualcomm as well as private equity firms General Atlantic and KKR.

Mint had reported in May that Google was in discussions with Vodafone Idea to pick up about 5% in the company as part of a strategy to develop the next big connected digital ecosystem in India, which would have it in direct competition with Jio. In India, Google has announced a partnership with Bharti Airtel in January to extend its G-suite services to Airtel subscribers and has been working closely with the Bharti Airtel enterprise team for a few years now.

For the proposed deal with Google, Morgan Stanley has been hired as the investment banker by Reliance Industries.

Jio Platforms has so far sold 25.24% in just 11 weeks. For Ambani, the investments have helped Reliance Industries turn net debt-free before the March 2021 deadline. For the country, the deals have positioned India as a hot-spot for M&A this year, accounting for more than 12% of those announced in the Asia-Pacific —the highest ratio since at least 1998, Bloomberg reported.

Facebook has invested $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms in April; Microsoft’s venture fund M12 said last month it would open an office in India to pursue investment opportunities focusing on B2B software startups. Earlier this year, Amazon said it would invest an additional $1 billion in India. Intel has announced an investment of 1,894.50 crore for a 0.39% stake in Jio Platforms.

On Monday, Google said it plans to invest $10 billion in India over the next 5-7 years by way of equity investments, partnerships, and other arrangements to “accelerate digitization" in the country.

Google, Facebook, and Amazon.com Inc. are pumping billions of dollars into India to lay the foundation for future growth in one of the world’s last major relatively untapped internet markets. With just half of India’s billion-plus people having access to internet, it is an attractive growth market as companies prepare to tap the next 500 million for services such as video streaming, search, cloud hosting, and digital payments.

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