Facebook’s $5.7 Billion Jio Stake Wins Regulatory Approval
The logo of Reliance Jio, the mobile network of Reliance Industries Ltd., is displayed inside a store in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Facebook’s $5.7 Billion Jio Stake Wins Regulatory Approval

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India’s antitrust regulator approved Facebook Inc.’s purchase of a 9.99% stake in the digital services business controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, giving the social media giant another foothold in one of the world’s fastest-growing online markets.

The U.S.-based company will invest $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms Ltd. through Jaadhu Holdings LLC, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Facebook, according to a filing on the Competition Commission of India website.

The clearance paves the way for a slew of smaller investments that are helping Jio’s parent -- Reliance Industries Ltd. -- reach its goals of becoming net-debt free and using its roughly 400 million wireless phone subscribers as the cornerstone of an e-commerce and digital services business. Ambani’s $65 billion Jio Platforms unit has sold more than 20% in stakes to buyers including Facebook and U.S. private equity firms KKR & Co., Silver Lake Partners and General Atlantic.

“This was the major hurdle before Reliance Industries,” said Sudeep Anand, head of institutional research at IDBI Capital Market Services Ltd. “Now that the Competition Commission has cleared the Facebook deal, the other deals will also get cleared at a swift pace.”

Facebook’s $5.7 Billion Jio Stake Wins Regulatory Approval

A representative for Jio said he couldn’t comment in the absence of a formal notification from the commission.

Reliance Industries, an oil refining, petrochemicals, telecommunications and retail group, last week said it had become free of net debt ahead of a March 2021 target after raising more than $23 billion from stake sales and a rights issue. The conglomerate said it had racked up net debt of 1.6 trillion rupees ($21 billion) as of March, most of it for rolling out its wireless carrier, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., which became India’s biggest within three years of its 2016 debut.

Shares in Reliance Industries have doubled since late March to a record high, adding to the fortunes of Ambani, Asia’s richest man.

Ambani’s net worth has climbed to $63.8 billion, making him the only Asian tycoon among the world’s 10 richest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He overtook Larry Ellison of Oracle Corp. and France’s Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the wealthiest woman, to reach the No. 9 spot.

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