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Reliance ups stake again in US-based pod car developer SkyTran
Photo Credit: Reuters

Energy-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has hiked its stake in the US-based SkyTran Inc., a venture-funded technology company that is developing pod car transport systems.

RIL said in a stock-exchange filing that it has increased its holding in SkyTran to 26.31% from the previous 17.37% on a fully diluted basis. The increase in shareholding took place after the completion of conditions laid out in the original agreement, it said.

Last year in November, RIL had hiked its stake to 17.37% in SkyTran through a subsidiary, Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Ltd.

The second tranche took place in March, with the conversion into shares taking place earlier this week, the filing added. It did not disclose the financial details of the transaction.

Mukesh Ambani-led RIL originally acquired a 12.7% stake in SkyTran in October 2018. At the time, the company said it had the option of investing an additional amount up to $25 million in convertible notes, subject to approval from SkyTran's board.

Founded in 2011, SkyTran says it aims to solve the problem of traffic congestion globally by creating a transport option that is high-speed, scalable, and low-cost.

The company, which has partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in Israel, has developed magnetic levitation technology for implementing personal transportation systems.

RIL said it had backed the company intending to strike an exclusive partnership with India. The conglomerate said it would work closely with SkyTran to develop pilot implementations and eventually launch them at scale.

RIL’s stake increase in the company comes exactly a week after it announced that Facebook Inc. would invest Rs 43,574 crore ($5.7 billion) in the digital business of Reliance Industries Ltd. Facebook had said that it would pick up a 9.99% stake in Jio Platforms Ltd, making it one of the biggest foreign direct investments for a minority stake in an Indian company.

While telecommunications and technology service Jio has been the focus of RIL’s efforts in recent years, it has not shied away from making strategic investments and acquisitions to increase its portfolio and presence in broader technology segments.

In October last year, it made a follow-on investment of $8 million (around Rs 58 crore at current exchange rates) in US-based artificial intelligence firm Netradyne Inc.

In June, RIL had agreed to acquire Radisys Corporation, a US-based open telecom platform solutions provider, for $75 million (Rs 510 crore) in cash.

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