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Amazon in early talks to buy US$2b stake in Singtel associate Bharti Airtel, say sources

Amazon's digital offerings in India are via video streaming, voice-activated speakers, cloud storage

New Delhi

AMAZON.COM is in early-stage talks to buy a stake worth at least US$2 billion in Indian mobile operator Bharti Airtel, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, underscoring the growing attraction of India's digital economy for US tech giants.

The planned investment, if completed, would mean Amazon acquiring a roughly 5 per cent stake based on the current market value of Airtel, which is India's third-largest telecoms company with more than 300 million subscribers.

The discussions between Amazon and Airtel come at a time when global players are placing major bets on the digital arm of Reliance Industries, which owns Airtel's telecom rival Jio.

Reliance's digital unit has raised US$10 billion in recent weeks from Facebook, KKR and others.

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The talks between Airtel and Amazon are at an early stage and the deal terms could change, or an agreement may not be reached, said two of the three sources, all of whom declined to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company does "not offer comments on speculation of what we may or may not do in future".

Airtel said it routinely works with all digital players to bring their products, content and services to customers.

"Beyond that there is no other activity to report", it said in a statement.

Amazon counts India as a crucial growth market where it has committed US$6.50 billion in investments mainly towards expanding its e-commerce footprint.

The Seattle-based company has in recent years also expanded its digital offerings in India via its voice-activated speakers, video streaming and cloud storage, as it seeks to tap a rising number of Internet and smartphone users in the country of 1.3 billion people. REUTERS

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