Paytm, a leading mobile payments and commerce platform owned and operated by Noida-based One97 Communications, is in talks to raise between US$1.2 billion and US$1.5 billion from Japanese Internet giant SoftBank Group, according to a report by Mint. It will see SoftBank buying some shares from existing Paytm investor SAIF Partners and founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma in exchange of monetary investment in the company.
Indian e-commerce space is a buzz with news reports that the largest player Flipkart is considering acquiring Snapdeal, especially since the latter's largest shareholder Softbank is keen to exit the investment and is expected to make an announcement in the next few weeks.
According to the latest reports, Paytm is also looking to buy Snapdeal-owned payments firm Freecharge.
SoftBank is the largest shareholder in Snapdeal, which is locked in an intense battle with Amazon India and Flipkart. But people close to the developments said the deal could go either way - Snapdeal getting merged either with Flipkart or Paytm.
Paytm's valuation stood at close to Rs 15,260 crore, or about $2.3 billion, after investment by Alibaba and Alipay in 2015, and increased to $4.8 billion after it raised $60 million from Taiwanese semiconductor firm MediaTek in August 2016. Well, the reason behind the same might be that the merger will help Flipkart get a potential investor in the company, in the form of Japan's Masayoshi Son-led SoftBank Group Corp. It could also help the company in preventing possible government concerns about a Chinese company having a strong hold over Paytm. When contacted by ET, Goldman Sachs spokespersons declined to comment. With the investment of $1.5 Billion, SoftBank will change the people's viewpoint on Paytm being a Chinese company.
With the competition set to intensify in the payments space, industry experts say a stronger offline approach and deep pockets will determine the victor.
SoftBank, which has been for the last three months trying to hammer out a deal to sell Snapdeal, is learnt to be in talks with Tiger Global to merge the Gurgaon-based marketplace with Flipkart. Ltd, to Flipkart. Another of its portfolio companies, Grofers, is in initial talks with Big Basket for a merger. Paytm expanded its business rapidly and became one of the India's most valuable Internet firm. That, and the consequent emphasis on digital payments, have worked well for Paytm.
Payments have been a lucrative option now in the e-commerce sphere, and post the demonetization drive, customer engagement with Paytm as well as mobile app downloads have seen a considerable rise.
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