Paytm Founder to Take Control From Ant Without Paying Cash

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(Bloomberg) — Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma will acquire a 10.3% stake from China’s Ant Group Co., in an unusual transaction that will make the entrepreneur the company’s single biggest shareholder without paying any cash.Most Read from BloombergMusk Says He May Need Surgery, Will Get MRI on Back and NeckTexas Power Prices to Surge 800% on Sunday Amid Searing HeatUkraine Black Sea Drone Attacks Signal Rapidly Expanding WarPayPal Launches a Stablecoin in Latest Crypto Payments PushHSBC Executive Slams ‘Weak’ UK for Backing US Against ChinaSharma, also chief executive officer of Paytm-parent One97 Communications Ltd., will increase his holding in the Indian fintech company to 19.42% while Ant’s drops to 13.5%, according to a regulatory filing.

Ant gets convertible securities that will give it the option to recoup its stake in future.

That means it can raise its holding back to above 23% at a later date, potentially benefiting if Paytm’s stock price rises, though the company didn’t specify a timeframe for exercising that option.For now, the deal reduces a large overhang on the market as investors had bet that Ant, the Chinese fintech pioneer backed by billionaire Jack Ma, would eventually offload a chunk of its Paytm shares.

By taking control, Sharma also addresses concerns that a prominent Chinese company is running one of India’s best-known tech firms, at a time tensions between the two countries are rising.Paytm’s shares surged as much as 11% Monday, building on a 50% rally in 2023.

It had shed some gains and was up about 7% in late trading.“This acquisition could be for the optics of getting rid of the tag of being a Chinese company.

However, the big positive is that Vijay Shekhar Sharma is increasing his commitment to the company,” said Shriram Subramanian, founder of InGovern Research, a corporate governance advisory firm.

“The overhang” of Ant selling shares “will go away.”Geopolitics has complicated Paytm and Ant’s relationship.

India has clashed with China in recent years in a dispute that hurt Chinese companies’ ability to operate in the neighboring country.

This year alone, India issued orders to block more than 200 apps and websites, largely linked to China.Story continuesSeveral Indian startups including Paytm have since come under fire domestically for ceding vast stakes to Chinese firms.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which owns about a third of Ant, completed the sale of its remaining stock in Paytm in recent months.Read more: SoftBank-Backed Paytm Posts Narrower Loss After Winning Users“As we announce this transfer of ownership, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Ant for their unwavering support and partnership over the past several years,” Sharma said in the statement.Sharma took the digital payments pioneer public in 2021 only to see the shares plummet in one of the worst performances for a major initial public offering.

Shares closed Friday at 796.6 rupees ($9.63), compared with the 2,150 rupee offering price.The SoftBank Group Corp.-backed company is beginning to staunch losses and win users in new segments such as smaller merchants.

Revenue from operations rose 39% to 23.4 billion rupees in the June quarter.“This also speaks volumes about Antfin belief in Paytm as they are supporting out of way with no commercial upfront,” Rahul Jain of Dolat Capital wrote in a research note.–With assistance from Chiranjivi Chakraborty.(Updates with details of the deal and share action in the fourth paragraph)Most Read from Bloomberg BusinessweekTeen Gamers Swiped $24 Million in Crypto, Then Turned on Each OtherHonoring the Enslaved Man Who Made Jack Daniel’s First WhiskeyA Digital Dollar Is for Banks and Governments, But Not YouPrivate Credit Funds Move From Mergers to Timeshares and Car LoansThe Health-Care Staffing Crisis Is Bad and Getting Worse©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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