The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved SoftBank Group Corp’s acquisition of 20% stake in One97 Communications Limited, which runs the digital goods and mobile commerce marketplace Paytm. The CCI was looking into the acquisition after SoftBank invested $1.4 billion in Paytm, in May. At the time, Paytm had said it plans to invest the fresh funds over the next three to five years in expanding the user base and towards Paytm Payments Bank, which commenced operations in the same month.
.@CCI India approves acquisition of 20 percent stake in One97 Communications Limited by SoftBank Group Corp”
— CCI (@CCI_India) July 18, 2017
It’s worth noting that SoftBank, which is a majority stakeholder in e-commerce marketplace Snapdeal, is reportedly negotiating with Tiger Global Management, majority stakeholder in Flipkart, to sell Snapdeal to its rival. This deal is apparently only for Snapdeal’s marketplace business, and does not include the payments business, Freecharge, or the logistics business, Vulcan Express. To further add to this muddle, there were unconfirmed reports back in May that Paytm was looking to acquire rival wallet player FreeCharge from Snapdeal.
These speculations (and yes, these certainly still are only speculations) are being fueled by the fact that earlier this year, SoftBank had revealed that it had incurred losses to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore (or $1.41 billion) from its India investments, especially Snapdeal and Ola.
The inadvertent connections between SoftBank and Paytm don’t end here: In June last year, the SoftBank Group had announced that it will sell at least $7.9 billion of its stake in the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba to reduce its debt. And just about a year earlier, Alibaba Group had invested $680 million in Paytm, along with its affiliate company Ant Financial Services, which already owned a 25% stake in One97 Communications.
Paytm had reported 1.5 billion transactions for the financial year ended March 31, 2017, and a gross merchandise value (GMV) of around $5 billion. The company said in terms of transactions it was a growth of 3x from the previous year. Off the 1.5 billion transactions, 600 million were telecom recharges and 140 million transactions were for third-party online payments. The company had said it had 100 million offline transactions a month, 2 million travel bookings a month across train, bus and flights, sold over 3 million movie tickets monthly, and around 55% of its traffic was from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. The company claims it had 218 million wallets, however, it had not disclosed how many of them are active.