NEW DELHI (Reuters) - KKR & Co Inc KKR.N will invest $1.5 billion in Reliance Industries' RELI.NS Jio Platforms, its biggest investment in Asia to date and bringing the amount of new funds raised by the Indian digital company this month to a massive $10 billion.
Jio Platforms, which houses movie, music apps and telecoms venture Jio Infocomm, has now sold a combined stake of just over 17% in five fundraising deals led by Facebook Inc FB.O which spent $5.7 billion to take 9.99%.
The deals highlight Jio Platforms’ potential to become the dominant player in India’s digital economy. The telecoms unit has already decimated several rivals with cut-throat pricing, while it can count on Reliance’s retail network to expand e-commerce. It is also working on connected cars, security systems and smart homes.
KKR's purchase of a 2.32% stake for 113.67 billion rupees, pegs Jio Platforms' equity value at roughly $65 billion, making it India's second most valuable standalone tech firm after IT services company Tata Consultancy Services TCS.NS.
“We are investing behind Jio Platforms’ impressive momentum, world-class innovation and strong leadership team,” Henry Kravis, co-founder and co-CEO of the U.S. buyout firm, said in a statement on Friday.
The $10 billion in new funds raised will also help Reliance meet its target of eliminating $21.4 billion in net debt this year. The oil-to-telecoms giant, controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, is also selling $7 billion in new shares.
Often saying “data is the new oil”, Ambani has sought to diversify his empire away from energy and petrochemicals, beginning in 2016 with the establishment of Jio Infocomm which is now India’s biggest telecom carrier with more than 376 million subscribers.
The other recent investors were General Atlantic, Silver Lake and Vista Equity Partners.
KKR has invested more than $30 billion in tech companies, including China’s ByteDance and Indonesian digital payments firm GoJek.
Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Edwina Gibbs
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