The multi-million dollar private equity firm being set up by Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries , will be the first Indian fund to join a global co-investment programme led by US-based Intel Capital, the venture arm of chipmaker Intel Inc. The two funds are in the process of signing an agreement, a person with direct knowledge of the development said.
Intel’s Global Syndicate Programme launched in December 2009 is an elite group of over 20 global private equity investors who collaborate on technology-led deals. Globally, Intel Cap has backed firms such as Research In Motion , makers of BlackBerry phones, Actions Semiconductors in China and RedHat in the US. In India, the fund has invested in communications company Sasken, technology education provider NIIT and a range of emerging firms such as mobile services firm, One97 and smart TV company Althea Systems .
Ambani is looking to back innovation across the technology and lifescience space and has built up a fund with a corpus of up to $250 million. An email questionnaire sent to the spokespersons of RIL did not elicit a response.
Intel Capital, which invests out of a dedicated $250-million fund in India, was one of the most active private equity investors in the country in 2010. The fund closed about eight deals investing a total of $45 million in both existing firms such as July Systems as well as new investments in start-ups such as Buzzintown and Omnesys.
The agreement, when it comes through, will help the Ambani-led fund gain access to investment opportunities in a range of new technology start-ups in areas such as IT infrastructure, mobile technology, digital health and the internet – sectors that Intel Capital focuses heavily on.
Also as these emerging firms have already have received initial funding from Intel Cap, they will have undergone a rigorous process of due diligence. Allowing the newly-minted Indian PE firm to invest in start-ups with a dual advantage-disruptive technology and a proven business model.
“The two funds are yet to close a joint deal in India but they are in the process of evaluating an investment,” said an industry source.
The PE fund is supported by the Reliance Innovation Council which includes scientist RA Mashelkar, Ambani and other industry experts from science and business who are expected to whet possible investments made by the PE fund.
Intel Capital typically picks syndicate partners for their deep pockets and for additional technology inputs they can provide to portfolio companies. “Syndicate partners such as the Ambani-led fund will provide additional rounds of capital to fast-growing technology firms that do not need to go out into the market in search of more money,” said a senior professional with direct knowledge of the development. Last year, some of Intel Capital’s top investments included educational gaming company Tabula Digita , Carrier Ethernet solutions provider Overture Networks and advertising technology company BlackArrow. It also co-invested in video technology firm Kaltura where another India-focused fund Nexus Venture Partners also invested.
Intel Cap is also looking to seal a similar partnership with Japanese electronics major, Toshiba Corp , according to a senior professional in the private equity industry. “Such partnerships provide a dedicated pool of follow-on funding for fast growing companies in the Intel Cap portfolio while syndicate partners get access to strategic technology deals,” he added.