Amazon reportedly eyeing $2 billion investment in Bharti Airtel in India
It’s raining big tech in India’s telecom sector, as a new report from Reuters suggests that now Amazon is in early talks to invest in Bharti Airtel, India’s third-largest telecom company. This report comes on the heels of Facebook’s recent investment in Reliance Jio, as well as recent speculation of Google looking to invest in Vodafone Idea.
Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the matter, Reuters mentions that Amazon.com is in early-stage talks to buy a stake, which is worth at least $2 billion, in Bharti Airtel. This investment would mean that Amazon would have acquired about a 5% stake in the company, which has more than 328 million subscribers in India and controls more than 28% more of the Indian telecom market. The report does mention that the deal terms could change or that an agreement may not be reached, underscoring the early-stage nature of these talks.
In April 2020, Facebook bought a 9.99% stake in Reliance Jio for $5.7 billion, or ₹43,574 crores. Reliance Jio then went on to close several other investment deals, raising over $10 billion in the process. Reports had emerged in March 2020 that both Google and Facebook were separately interested in stakes within Reliance Jio, but we haven’t heard further on the Google-Jio deal. Instead, a new report in May 2020 suggested that Google is looking at scooping up a 5% stake in Vodafone Idea, even while keeping the discussions active and ongoing for the Google-Jio deal. Amazon’s interest in Bharti Airtel now covers up all three major players of the Indian telecom sector, all of whom have now attracted attention from Silicon Valley.
The focus also comes amid the persistent pressure of repaying the entire AGR dues and the precarious balance sheets two of these three telecoms are left with after accounting for the Supreme Court judgment. If these deals indeed materialize, it would inject much-needed working capital into the telecom sector to continue smooth operations and work towards future expansions and the imminent setup of 5G infrastructure. On the other hand, these investments also give an “in-road” to these significant Silicon Valley players into the Indian telecom sector.