Google Mulling Purchase of Stake in Indian Vodafone Idea


Google (GOOGL) is considering a buying a 5% stake in Indian telecommunications provider Vodafone Idea, which itself is a partnership between UK-based Vodafone and India’s Aditya Birla Group.

This comes on the heels of Facebook’s (FB) announcement last month that it had purchased a 9.9% stake in India’s largest mobile telecom provider, Jio Platforms, for $5.7 billion. The deal was meant to provide Facebook direct access to Jio’s 370 million subscribers and a foothold into India’s growing mobile market.

According to reports, Google has also held talks about acquiring a stake in Jio, with discussions still ongoing.

Google’s Android mobile operating system is extremely popular in India, as is the mobile payments service it launched in India in 2017.

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 back taxes.

Google parent Alphabet’s stock has done quite well this year, rising 28%, even after falling significantly in early March. Wall Street consensus sees Alphabet as a Strong Buy, and the average analyst 12-month price target of $1488 leaves just over 3% upside potential. It closed on Friday at $1433 per share. (See Alphabet stock analysis on TipRanks).

In a recent note to clients, Canaccord Genuity’s Maria Ripps wrote: “We see Google likely benefiting as the pandemic could be a tailwind for ad budgets shifting online, momentum in Google Cloud supporting consolidated growth, and Other Bets providing optionality for patient investors. This, coupled with prudent expense management, a strong balance sheet, and share repurchases, gives us comfort around Alphabet’s ability to successfully withstand this [coronavirus-related] near-term disruption.”

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