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Power

Google is adding $4.5 billion to Jio Platforms’ war chest

Investors just can't stop pouring money into the wannabe WeChat of India.

Jio Platforms doesn't seem to be able to stop raising money.

The company confirmed Wednesday that Google bought a 7.7% stake in Jio Platforms for around $4.5 billion. Google is Jio's 13th major investor since the company started raising in April — and the company has now raised $20 billion in under three months.

While investing in Jio increasingly just seems to be what tech companies and private equity shops do, a Google deal is slightly surprising. In May, The Financial Times reported that Google was considering a stake in Vodafone Idea, Jio's struggling competitor. That would have set it up for a battle with Facebook, Jio's largest external investor. By investing in Jio, Google might instead be deciding to team up with Facebook. And together they may end up fighting Amazon, which is rumored to be investing $2 billion in Jio's other rival, Bharti Airtel.The timing of the deal is interesting, too. On Monday, Google announced a $10 billion fund to invest in India, which Sundar Pichai said would be spread across companies and data centers. A $4.5 billion stake in Jio uses up a big chunk of that fund, and isn't exactly an innovative move at this point

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Still, it confirms what we already knew: Almost everyone is betting on Jio to become the WeChat of India. The company plans to use its immensely popular cellular network to push users into a range of digital services, ranging from edtech to ecommerce. The potential profits on offer have attracted a range of both financial and strategic investors. Facebook, Google, Intel, and Qualcomm presumably want to play a role in building (and shaping) India's future; private equity and state investment funds more likely just want a slice of the cash.

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The latter should count themselves lucky: Jio has said it's no longer looking for financial partners, but is instead searching for strategic investors. With Android powering 95% of Indian smartphones, Google certainly fits the bill.

This article was updated Wednesday after Jio confirmed Google's investment.

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