A month after ceding leadership position to Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani is back to being Asia's richest person.
Ambani's wealth increased by $4.7 billion on Wednesday after Reliance stock zoomed 10 percent on the BSE following Facebook's investment in Jio Platforms.
His net worth shot up to $49.2 billion, making him the world's 17th richest person ahead of Mackenzie Bezos ($46.8 billion) and Jack Ma ($46 billion), according to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Facebook pumped in $5.7 billion in exchange of a 9.99 percent equity stake in Reliance Jio. It is the tech giant's biggest deal since the acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. Post this deal, Facebook is now the largest minority shareholder in Jio, which is valued (pre-money) at $66 billion.
The deal — biggest in India's internet ecosystem till date — is subject to regulatory approvals, but Jio is gunning to be one of the most-valued internet companies in Asia.
Speaking of the deal in a video message, Ambani said,
"All of us at Reliance are humbled by the opportunity to welcome Facebook as our long-term partner in continuing to grow and transform the digital ecosystem of India for the benefit of all Indians. The synergy between Jio and Facebook will help realise the ‘Digital India’ Mission with its two ambitious goals — ‘Ease of Living’ and ‘Ease of Doing Business’ – for every single category of Indian people."
Facebook's interest in Reliance comes at a time when the petrochemical-to-telecom conglomerate was reeling from the recessionary impact of the coronavirus that sent global oil prices plunging below $0 per barrel. Consequent stock market crashes have eroded billions of dollars from Ambani's fortune.
In 2020 alone, Reliance Industries stock has tanked 26.2 percent, making the chairman poorer by over $21 billion. But, the company might be showing some signs of recovery.
The Reliance-Facebook partnership is believed to be a game changer for India's small-and-medium businesses — over 60 million of them.
"With the power of WhatsApp, we can enable people to connect with businesses, shop and ultimately purchase products in a seamless mobile experience," Facebook said in a statement after the deal.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)
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