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Ant Group looks to exit Paytm

The main trigger for the Alibaba-backed behemoth to consider the divestment of its stake is the worsening diplomatic relations between India and China
Financial details of the possible transaction have not been firmed up and Ant, the Alibaba-backed payments-to-consumer credit behemoth, has not launched a formal sale process yet, four people told Reuters.
Financial details of the possible transaction have not been firmed up and Ant, the Alibaba-backed payments-to-consumer credit behemoth, has not launched a formal sale process yet, four people told Reuters.
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Reuters   |   New Delhi, Hong Kong   |   Published 03.12.20, 04:48 AM

Chinese fintech giant Ant Group is considering selling its 30 per cent stake in Indian digital payment processor Paytm amid tensions between the two Asian neighbours and a toughening competitive landscape, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Financial details of the possible transaction have not been firmed up and Ant, the Alibaba-backed payments-to-consumer credit behemoth, has not launched a formal sale process yet, four people told Reuters.

Paytm, which is also backed by SoftBank Group Corp among others, was valued at about $16 billion during its latest private fund raising round a year ago. At that valuation, Ant’s stake in the Indian firm is worth about $4.8 billion.

Both Ant and Paytm said the information was incorrect. A Paytm spokesperson said, “There has been no discussion with any of our major shareholders ever, nor any plans, about selling their stake.”

Ant’s possible exit from Paytm would mark another reversal for the Chinese company hot on the heels of the dramatic suspension of its $37-billion stock listing last month, which would have been the world’s largest.

It also would be a step back from its ambitions of becoming a global payments leader. Sources said in October that Ant was cutting its financial support to many of the overseas affiliated e-wallet firms.

The main trigger for Ant to consider the divestment of its stake in Paytm is the worsening diplomatic relations between India and China in the past few months, said the people, who declined to be named as the deliberations are confidential.

Relations between the countries are at a nadir, with troops locked in a border face-off in the western Himalayas for months after a clash in June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

Since the clash India has tightened rules for investments from China and banned dozens of Chinese mobile apps, including from tech giants Tencent, Alibaba and ByteDance. It banned 43 more apps late last month.

“There is a growing realisation within Ant management that it would not be able to raise its stake in the company,” one of the people with direct knowledge said, adding senior managers at Ant have discussed the idea recently.

Even so, Ant was in the middle of an investment review and it could still decide to shelve a divestment if it failed to get the desired valuation, he said.



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