Facebook invests $5.7 billion in Reliance unit

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The health crisis that has slowed M&A activity to a crawl around the world isn't stopping Facebook. The social networking company said Wednesday it'll spend $5.7 billion to take a nearly 10% stake in Jio Platforms, a company based in India helping take local grocery stores online.

The deal is Facebook's biggest purchase since it shelled out $22 billion for WhatsApp six years ago.

Jio Platforms is the digital unit of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries.

JioMart will work together with WhatsApp. Together, they'll connect business owners, especially small neighborhood shops called kirana, with their customers. India's competitive grocery market already features foreign entrants such as Amazon's Pantry, Walmart's Flipkart, and Alibaba-backed Big Basket. But kirana stores operate for the most part outside the world of e-commerce.

Analysts say the deal could eventually also include e-payment services.

The deal also buys some breathing room for Reliance as its core oil and gas businesses suffer amid the pandemic. Shares in India's largest conglomerate closed up 10% Wednesday. Facebook shares shot up 5% in morning trading.

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