Facebook plans to acquire a 9.99 percent equity stake in Jio Platforms, the holding company of telecom Reliance Jio Infocomm.
The INR 435.7 billion ($5.7 billion) deal allows the social media and advertising company to increase its foothold in India, its largest market. The transaction is subject to regulatory and other customary approvals.
India's largest mobile operator
"This is the largest investment for a minority stake by a technology company anywhere in the world and the largest [foreign direct investment] in the technology sector in India," Jio said in a statement. "The investment values Jio Platforms amongst the top five listed companies in India by market capitalization, within just three and a half years of launch of commercial services."
Launched in September 2016, Jio currently has over 388 million users, after the division of Reliance Industries offered radically low mobile data prices - a move that also left the company deeply in debt and in need of investment.
"With communities around the world in lockdown, many of these entrepreneurs need digital tools they can rely on to find and communicate with customers and grow their businesses," Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
"This is something we can help with - and that's why we're partnering with Jio to help people and businesses in India create new opportunities." Discussions, which were first reported last month, began before Covid-19.
Facebook said that it plans to combine its WhatsApp messaging platform with Reliance Retail's JioMart. The platform helps users find nearby family stores and order products and services from home.
In March, Reuters reported that Google was also looking to acquire a stake in Reliance Jio, but the discussions were in an early stage. Last year, Jio partnered with Microsoft to build Azure data centers across India over the next decade.
It's been suggested that Jio's choice of partners led Google to invest in its own telecoms infrastructure, including a project to build the Blue-Raman cable from India to Italy. "At the time of the fallout, it seemed that Google was in a fix since Jio was so powerful in India," Tagare writes. "But Jio did not realize that Google has become politically very savvy in the global submarine cable industry with more than 10 years and billions of dollars behind it.