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Facebook teams up with Reliance Jio, finalizes Asia’s 8th largest deal

The deal announced on Wednesday is Facebook’s biggest since its $22 billion buyout of WhatsApp in 2014 and will give the Menlo Park, California-based firm a stake in Jio Platforms – the digital services entity that houses Reliance’s telecoms arm Jio Infocomm, as well as its news, movie and music apps, along with other businesses.

The transaction is also the eighth largest deal in Asia this year based on deal value, according to Refinitiv data, and comes at a time when the coronavirus outbreak has stifled mergers and acquisitions activity globally.

To kick off the partnership, Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger, which counts India as its biggest market with about 400 million users, will help fuel the growth of Jio’s new retail venture, JioMart, the two companies said.

“In the near future JioMart … and WhatsApp will empower nearly 30 million small Indian kirana (grocery) shops to digitally transact with every customer in their neighborhood,” Mukesh Ambani, Reliance chairman, said in a video statement.

JioMart, the e-commerce venture of Reliance’s retail arm, offers customers free express grocery deliveries from neighbourhood mum-and-pop stores. It is yet to be launched across India, and is likely to pose a formidable challenge to Amazon.com’s local unit and Walmart’s Flipkart, which are also betting big on groceries to grow.

For Reliance, the deal will help the oil-to-retail group, which bet over $30 billion on the Jio telecoms venture, reduce its debt load.

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