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Facebook Held Talks for 10% Stake in Reliance Jio, FT Says

Amy Thomson

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is in discussions to take a multibillion-dollar stake in Indian wireless provider Reliance Jio, the Financial Times said, citing two people familiar with the negotiations.

The social-networking giant was close to signing a preliminary deal for 10% of the carrier before travel bans related to the Covid-19 pandemic stalled negotiations, the Financial Times reported. Alphabet Inc.’s Google had also held talks about a stake, the newspaper said, citing a person briefed on the negotiations. The paper didn’t name any of its sources.

The deal, which had been scheduled to be announced later this month, was part of parent company Reliance Industries Ltd.’s plans to reduce debt, the Financial Times said. Representatives for Reliance and Google didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook declined to comment.

Reliance, part of billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s empire, has said it plans to cut net debt to zero by 2021. It spent almost $50 billion -- most of it funded by borrowings -- to build Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., which rose to become India’s biggest wireless carrier within about three years of its debut by offering prices that undercut rivals.

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