KKR caps Jio deal, upping payments reach in Asia

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KKR & Co. said it negotiated its biggest Asian transaction, a $1.5 billion deal to buy stake in Mukesh Ambani’s India-based digital platform business, in 10 days.

The New York-based private equity firm on Friday said it’s buying a 2.3% stake in Jio Platforms Ltd., the telecom and digital services holding company controlled by Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. The deal was done over Zoom calls, said Sanjay Nayar, chief executive officer of KKR’s India unit.

KKR said Ambani’s goals of becoming a top e-commerce and payments operator in India, the world’s second-most populated nation, helped KKR accelerate the decision. Private equity firms often take months to conduct due diligence and negotiate terms of an investment.

“We invested in Mukesh Ambani’s entrepreneurial vision backed by a world class management,” Nayar said in an interview. “The business model is scale-able to meet the demand of the aspiring Indians which will unleash demand.”

KKR’s investment follows Ambani’s stake sales in Jio Platforms to Facebook Inc., Silver Lake and General Atlantic. Ambani, Asia’s richest man, has lured $10 billion of investments since April.

“We are backing a winning story and it has a long way to go,” Nayar said. “We have not invested in a greenfield business.”

KKR, which has also put money into technology-driven companies like enterprise solutions provider BMC Software Inc., ByteDance Ltd., owner of the TikTok social video platform, and Indonesia-based ride-hailing and food-delivery giant GoJek, said Jio was its biggest investment in the region.

Bloomberg News