Asia’s Richest Man Courts Saudis, General Atlantic for Jio
Oil silos at the oil and gas storage facility operated by Gazprom Neft PJSC, in Pancevo, Serbia. (Photographer: Oliver Bunic/Bloomberg)

Asia’s Richest Man Courts Saudis, General Atlantic for Jio

(Bloomberg) -- The Saudi sovereign wealth fund and General Atlantic are among firms exploring investments in billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s digital business, as Asia’s richest man seeks to expand his operations outside oil and petrochemicals, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Saudi Arabia’s $320 billion Public Investment Fund is considering buying a minority stake in Reliance Industries Ltd.’s Jio Platforms unit, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

General Atlantic, the U.S. investment firm that helped fund Airbnb Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., is discussing a potential investment of about $850 million to $950 million in Jio Platforms, the people said. The deal could be completed as soon as this month, though no agreement has been finalized and plans may change, the people said.

Any new investment into Jio Platforms will add to the $8 billion deal run that Ambani has sealed in recent weeks. Facebook Inc. in April agreed to pay $5.7 billion for a 10% stake in the digital unit, while Silver Lake Partners and Vista Equity Partners last week said they would invest about $2.25 billion in total.

Investors are betting on Jio’s access to India’s huge consumer market, and its potential to shake up traditional industries in the country -- from retail to education and payments -- with its technology. India is the only major open Internet market where foreign technology giants such as, Walmart Inc. and Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. can compete for market share.

The string of investments from technology giants and private equity firms will go toward slashing debt at Reliance Industries, which is controlled by Ambani. The outside money also helps set a valuation for Jio, which until recently has been largely owned by the billionaire’s conglomerate.

Representatives for Reliance Industries and Saudi’s Public Investment Fund didn’t respond to requests for comment, while General Atlantic declined to comment.

Shares of Reliance Industries rose as much as 3.4% and touched their highest level since Dec. 20 on Monday in Mumbai.

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