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Facebook eyes stake in Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio; deal hits snag due to coronavirus

FE Online
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Social media company Facebook was reportedly in talks with Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio to buy equity stake worth a billion dollars in India’s homegrown telecom network. However, the deal has hit snag as the world reels under the coronavirus outbreak, the Financial Times reported citing two unidentified people with the knowledge. US-based Facebook was close to signing a deal to buy 10% equity stake in India's largest network Reliance Jio, but could not complete the same due to global travel bans. Meanwhile, Financial Express Online has reached out to Reliance Industries Limited for comments.

Other than Facebook, IT giant Google was also in separate talks with Reliance Jio, the Financial Times cited one of the people briefed on the discussions as saying. Microsoft had also announced plans in 2019 to partner with Jio to offer cloud computing to businesses.

If Facebook secures the deal with Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio, it will get wider access to the burgeoning Indian market where the former already has WhatsApp chat service active with about 400 million users. Facebook is also going to soon launch a payments service via Whatsapp while the digital payments scenario is also booming in the country.

Since its inception in 2016, Reliance Jio has not only managed to keep afloat in the country's troubled sector but has also morphed from mobile telecom to everything from home broadband to e-commerce.

India is one of the key markets for internet companies such as Facebook and Whatsapp with its rising number of internet users. India is also the second largest smartphone market after China by unit shipments, according to Counterpoint Research, as the country surpassed the United States in mobile shipments.

Meanwhile, India's largest telecom operator has chipped in to curb the menace caused by coronavirus. The company has said that it will provide basic 10mbps internet service to its new users for free to help people stay connected amid the testing times. Jio will provide home gateway routers with a minimum refundable deposit and wont charge for the internet service as the country remains under a lockdown for 21 days.