Google targets minority stake in Vodafone Idea?

Alphabet’s Google is exploring an investment for buying a stake of about 5 percent in Vodafone Idea, Vodafone Group’s struggling India business, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.
Vodafone mobile networkVodafone Group said it does not comment on market speculation, while Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, Facebook agreed to invest $5.7 billion for a 9.99 percent stake in Reliance Industries’ digital arm, Jio Platforms, which competes with Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel in India’s fiercely competitive telecom market.

Google has also held talks about acquiring a stake in Jio, and though discussions are still ongoing, it has lagged behind its rival in securing a deal.

Pursuing Vodafone Idea would pit Google against Facebook and an increasingly dominant Jio but the company could also make multiple investments in India.

Google’s effort to follow Facebook in securing a foothold in India highlights the appeal of the country, where telecom operators enjoy hundreds of millions of subscribers each. India has around 900 million mobile phone customers.

The prospects for India’s mobile sector have improved after the three companies raised prices late last year. On Tuesday, Bharti Airtel’s parent raised $1.1 billion in a share sale after the company’s stock price hit an all-time high.