NEW DELHI: After investing over Rs 34,000 crore in Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Platforms, US internet giant Alphabet Inc’s Google is on track to make a “substantial investment, running into several thousands of crores” in Bharti Airtel. Jio’s main competitor.
The Sundar Pichai-led company has been in “advanced stage of talks” with Airtel for “about a year”, and the size of the deal could be “quite big”.
The partnership’s outline has been worked out for months as top executives from both companies, and their internal and external legal and M&A teams, are hammering out the finer points of the arrangement.
Queries sent to Google and Airtel remained unanswered till the time of going to press. Also, Google did not respond to a question whether its deal with Jio places any restrictions on the company from tying up with the rival.
If the Google-Airtel deal goes through, it could be a big relief for Sunil Mittal, whose company is facing stiff competition in the cash-starved telecom sector.
Ambani had disrupted the industry’s long-standing financial model, which gave 75% of the industry’s revenue – completely free, while offering data at dirt-cheap costs, similar to Airtel and other private players such as Vodafone. put pressure on Financial stress increased after the Supreme Court’s decision on India and Idea Cellular AGR.
Airtel, whose board will meet on Sunday to consider the fundraising plan, is under stress. The company had a debt of about Rs 1.6 lakh crore at the end of June and is not able to increase the duty independently.
Sources said any deal with Google would be a huge confidence booster for the company.
“Airtel’s balance sheet has strengthened with the advent of Google. Also, it helps the company strategically as Google brings innovation capabilities and strengths on data analytics. Google’s data monetization is far better than any other company in the world, and it can help Airtel better monetize its data to improve its realization and profitability,” a top analyst named Said requesting anonymity.
However, the analyst said Google entering Airtel would require “very strong reasons” and a very comfortable valuation, which also poses “strong exposure” to anyone entering the company. “If anything goes wrong tomorrow, your (Google) reputation in the market is lost, even though it will be a limited liability. If Airtel is not able to move forward due to financial pressures and starts slipping, then to save its name, the company will have to clear its dues.