Google is looking at an investment in Vodafone’s India business, which could put the US internet group in competition with Facebook for the world’s fastest-growing mobile market.
One of the people close to the matter said Google was considering buying a stake of about 5 per cent in Vodafone Idea, a partnership between the UK telecoms company and India’s Aditya Birla Group that has been under financial strain.
Reliance Industries’ Jio, owned by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, has in recent weeks secured more than $10 billion (£8bn, €9bn) in investment from Facebook and private equity groups including KKR, General Atlantic, Vista Equity Partners and Silver Lake.
Google parent Alphabet has also held talks about acquiring a stake in Jio, with discussions still ongoing.
Pursuing Vodafone Idea would potentially pit Google against Facebook and an increasingly dominant Jio, but the company could also make multiple investments in India.
Google is popular in India. It has pushed its Android mobile operating system in the country and its mobile payments service has grown rapidly since its 2017 launch in India, becoming one of the most popular.
For Vodafone Idea, an investment by Google could increase the likelihood of its survival. Its future has been uncertain since India’s Supreme Court ruled in October that it owed billions of dollars in retrospective fees, prompting Aditya Birla Group to state it might “shut shop” altogether.
Google, Vodafone, Birla and Vodafone Idea have not commented on any potential investment.