Google eyes 5% stake in Vodafone Idea

Just last month, social media giant Facebook bought a stake in Jio Platforms in its major thrust in the Indian market which is touted to be the world's fastest-growing mobile market.

At that time itself it was asked: how will Facebook's rival Google respond?

The answer, it would seem, is: By buying a stake into Jio's rival.

As per a report appearing in the Financial Times, Google is exploring an investment in Vodafone’s India business, and the ongoing talks are still at a preliminary stage. 

Google is considering buying stake of about 5% in Vodafone Idea, a partnership between the UK telecom company and Aditya Birla Group. The company though is under considerable financial pressure.

It may be recalled that in recent weeks, Reliance Industries’ Jio has secured more than $10 billion in investment from Facebook and private equity groups including KKR, General Atlantic, Vista Equity Partners and Silver Lake.

Indian market hugely attractive 

Google parent Alphabet has also held talks about acquiring a stake in Jio, and although discussions are still ongoing, it has lagged behind its rival in securing a deal, the Financial Times report said. 

Google's interest in Vodafone Idea shows two things. One, its own rivalry with Facebook. Two, the attractiveness of the Indian market. Telecom operators enjoy hundreds of millions of subscribers each in India. And Jio's remarkable growth has been possible because its subscribers' base is close to 390 million.

Google already has a reasonably success story in India with Google Pay, which has grown rapidly since its 2017 launch. 

Vodafone and Idea, for their part, would see a possible investment by Google as god-sent. The group is battling a levy of Rs 53,000 crore adjusted gross revenues dues to the government. The group has already stated that it might “shut shop” altogether as it is unable to pay the government.

Meanwhile, as if all the action isn't enough, Jio is reportedly in separate talks to raise an additional 2.5 per cent from Microsoft for $2 billion.

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