Google eyes 5% stake in Vodafone Idea, multiple India investments: Report

Vodafone Idea has a market valuation of only Rs 16,724 crore
Global technology giant Google is in talks to buy a 5 per cent stake in Vodafone Idea, owned by Vodafone Plc of the UK and Aditya Birla Group. The move comes about a month after Google’s biggest rival, Facebook, picked up a 9.99 per cent stake in Reliance Industries’ (RIL’s) Jio Platforms for Rs 43,574 crore. 


Taking into account Vodafone Idea’s market valuation of Rs 16,724 crore as of Thursday, Google may end up buying the stake for Rs 836 crore. 


The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Google’s parent firm, Alphabet, had also held talks with RIL to acquire a stake in Jio, but lagged behind other investors like Facebook in securing a deal. A banker in Mumbai said Google was seeking a large stake in Jio, but could not get it.

“Pursuing Vodafone Idea instead would potentially pit Google against Facebook and an increasingly dominant Jio, but the company could also make multiple investments in India,” the report mentioned. Vodafone Plc and Aditya Birla Group own 44.39 per cent and 27.18 per cent stake, respectively, in Vodafone Idea, and have valued their stake in the company at zero. Both partners have also frozen any fresh investment into the firm in view of its huge losses and liabilities.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Aditya Birla Group declined to comment. Earlier this month, Vodafone Plc attributed its losses in Vodafone Idea to the adverse legal judgments by the Supreme Court. Besides, the British company said it would have an additional potential exposure of Rs 8,400 crore for the contingent liabilities of the Indian telecom company.               


Analysts said the transaction could prove to be a lifeline for Vodafone Idea, which has been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay Rs 53,000 crore in adjusted gross revenues dues to the government. “Though the Google investment is minuscule and will not move the needle, it will attract other investors in the company and be a morale booster,” said a banker.


In the past one month, five global players — Facebook, General Atlantic, Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, and KKR —have together picked up a 17.12 per cent stake in Jio Platforms for a total consideration of Rs 78,562 crore. RIL is planning to list Jio Platforms on Nasdaq so as to attract global investments into the country.


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