SoftBank Vision Fund will invest about $2.5bn in Flipkart Group, swelling the Indian e-commerce players’ cash hoard as it vies with Amazon.com Inc, people familiar with the matter said.
The investment includes approximately $1.5bn directly into Flipkart and $1bn for part of Tiger Global Management’s stake, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing the details. The deal will make the fund created by SoftBank Group Corp chairman Masayoshi Son the biggest shareholder of Flipkart, the people said. Flipkart announced the fund’s investment earlier without revealing an amount.
The investment swells Flipkart’s cash holdings to more than $4bn and comes less than two weeks after Snapdeal, backed by SoftBank itself, walked away from a proposed merger with Flipkart. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has vowed to spend $5bn in India to gain customers in a market with 500mn Internet users where e-commerce is expected to grow at 30% annually over five years.
“This kind of funding can help Flipkart match Amazon’s spending dollar-to-dollar for the next three to four years,” said Satish Meena, the Delhi-based senior forecast analyst at Forrester Inc. “After the Snapdeal merger backfired, SoftBank really had only one e-commerce investment option in India: Flipkart.”
SoftBank’s investment is part of a previously announced financing that drew capital from Tencent Holdings Ltd, eBay Inc and Microsoft Corp and valued Flipkart at $11.6bn.
The deal effectively means India will become a battleground with Amazon on one side and everyone else on the other to make it harder for Bezos to reach the top position in the country, Meena said. The Indian company will need to figure out how to hold onto consumers because Amazon’s platform has a stronger track record for retaining shoppers, according to Meena.
“This is a monumental deal for Flipkart and India. Very few economies globally attract such overwhelming interest from top-tier investors,” Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal, co-founders of Flipkart, said in a statement.
The investment is the biggest venture deal in India, the people familiar said.
SoftBank, which holds almost a third of Snapdeal shares, and Tiger Global had been pushing the proposed merger with Flipkart to create a stronger competitor to Amazon. That deal fell apart after Snapdeal’s founders raised objections.
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