After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.
Reliance Jio, which gained the most subscribers in the last month, announced four large deals raising a total of Rs30,062 crore. The company signed Intersteller Platforms Holdings Pte Ltd., the Public Investment Fund, Silver Lake and General Atlantic Singapore JP Pte Ltd as its newest investors. This comes after investments by technology major Facebook, private equity firm KKR and sovereign wealth funds Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Mubadala.
The new investments for a 6.13 percent stake come at an equity valuation of Rs4.91 lakh crore and enterprise value of Rs5.16 lakh crore. Earlier this month, the company had announced that the cumulative Rs1,17,588 crore in investments received in Jio Platforms has allowed the company to become net debt free in advance of its March 2021 target.
The news comes after Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani climbed to number seven on a real-time ranking of world billionaires compiled by Forbes. His net wealth stands at $70.1 billion. He went past Warren Buffett and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Reliance Industries shares have gained 28 percent since the first deal with Facebook was announced on April 22, taking its market capitalisation to Rs 11,90,000 crore.
Promoter stake in Reliance Industries increased to 50.29 percent after a recently concluded rights issue, where the company raised Rs53,125 crore. Analysts have now started pricing the business as a company with a strong technology core. The contribution to EBIDTA from its legacy oil and petrochemical businesses has declined from 85 percent in 2015 to 60 percent in 2020. Reliance Industries has also overtaken Tata Consultancy Services, which trades at a market cap of Rs833,000 crore.
In subscriber data for February 2020 announced last week Jio gained 6.2 million subscribers, taking its tally to 383 million. Most of the gains came from Vodafone Idea, which lost 3.4 million users.
Separately, Jio is also making plans to tap into emerging opportunities in the work-from-home space. Last week, it announced the launch of Jio Meet, a videoconferencing app that can accommodate up to 100 users. The app also supports direct 1:1 calling. For now, the app is free to use and customers are asked to sign on with an email ID or phone number. It comes with standard features such as screen sharing. With this, the company enters the teleconferencing business that is dominated by Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Both companies have reported a steady rise in business during the Covid-19 lockdown. It remains to be seen whether Jio plans to charge enterprise users.
Disclaimer: Reliance Industries is the owner of Network 18, the publisher of Forbes India