Flipkart's board approves $15bn Walmart takeover

SotfBank is set to completely exit GIC-backed Flipkart as part of a deal that will value the company at $20bn, and in which Alphabet is now expected to be involved.

The acquisition of a majority stake in India-based, corporate-backed e-commerce marketplace Flipkart by US-headquartered big-box retailer Walmart has been approved by the former’s board of directors, Bloomberg reported today.

Walmart will pay $15bn for a 75% stake in Flipkart according to people familiar with the matter. Telecommunications group SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which invested $2.5bn in the company at a $12.5bn valuation in August 2017, will sell its entire stake at a $20bn valuation.

Internet and technology conglomerate Alphabet will likely also take part in the deal, the sources told Bloomberg, but did not give any additional details.

Flipkart operates an online platform that lists more than 80 million items across 80 categories, such as electronics, appliances, fashion, furniture and books. It had 10 million monthly active users as of January 2018 but has faced increasingly fierce competition from e-commerce firm Amazon.

Amazon had offered to acquire 60% of Flipkart, CNBC reported earlier this week, only to be rebuffed. The US-based company’s existing presence in India’s e-commerce market makes a deal more difficult to get past regulators due to competition issues.

Internet company Tencent, software provider Microsoft, and media and e-commerce group Naspers, all of which joined online marketplace eBay to invest $1.4bn in Flipkart in April 2017 at an $11.6bn valuation, will retain small stakes in the company, the sources said.

Flipkart has raised some $7.2bn in funding and its investors also include media group Bennet Coleman and Co. Apart from SoftBank, its major shareholders include hedge fund manager Tiger Global Management, which also owns about 20%, and Naspers, which held a 16% stake as of April 2017.

Baillie Gifford, Greenoaks Capital, IDG Ventures India, Qatar Investment Authority, the Singaporean state-owned GIC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Accel, Steadview Capital, Iconiq Capital, DST Global, Sofina and T. Rowe Price are also past backers of the company.

Flipkart has begun preparing for the sale by buying back $350m of shares from investors including Accel, IDG Ventures, which is now part of the IDG Capital group, assorted pension funds and SoftBank executive Deep Nishar’s family trust, according to regulatory filings yesterday.

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