Paytm Targets $3 Billion IPO in What Would Be India’s Largest Debut

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In store mobile payment. Shutterstock.

Paytm, India’s leading digital payments provider, is aiming to raise about 218 billion rupees ($3 billion) in an initial public offering late this year, according to a person familiar with the deal, in what could be the country’s largest debut ever.

The startup, backed by investors including Berkshire Hathaway Inc., SoftBank Group Corp. and Ant Group Co., plans to list in India around November and its offering could coincide with the Diwali festival season, said the person, asking not to be named because the details are private. Paytm, formally called One97 Communications Ltd., is targeting a valuation of around $25 billion to $30 billion.

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The One97 board plans to meet this Friday to formally approve the IPO, said the person. Paytm declined to comment in response to emailed questions.

If successful, Paytm’s initial share sale would surpass Coal India Ltd.’s offering, which raised more than 150 billion rupees in 2010 in the country’s largest IPO so far.

Banks shortlisted to run the Paytm offering include Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., with Morgan Stanley the leading contender, the person said. The process is expected to get rolling in late June or early July. JPMorgan and Citigroup declined to comment; Morgan Stanley didn’t respond to requests for comment

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The public market debut will include a mix of new and existing shares to meet regulatory obligations in India. The country’s regulations require that 10 percent of shares are floated within two years and 25 percent within five years.

Karan Sharma, co-head of the digital and technology investment banking practice at Mumbai-based Avendus Capital Pvt., said there is strong demand for tech IPOs. While giants like Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. have proven the potential for lucrative returns, there are few options for investors looking to get a foothold in India’s burgeoning digital economy.

“The market capitalisation of companies listed on BSE has topped $3 trillion, but there are hardly any listed Internet companies in which investors can partake,” Sharma said, referring to the Bombay Stock Exchange. “There’s also massive latent demand from global investors who have large allocations for emerging markets.”

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Paytm, led by founder and Chief Executive Officer Vijay Shekhar Sharma, has been focusing on ramping up revenue and monetising its services over the past year. It’s expanded beyond digital payments into banking, credit cards, financial services, wealth management and digital wallets. It also supports India’s financial payments backbone, the Unified Payments Interface or UPI.

Paytm has fended off stiff competition from a swath of global players including Walmart Inc.-owned PhonePe, Google Pay, Amazon Pay as well as Facebook Inc.-owned WhatsApp Pay. It has the biggest market share of India’s merchant payments. Paytm has over 20 million merchant partners and its users make 1.4 billion monthly transactions, according to numbers in a recent company blog post. In a recent conversation, CEO Sharma said Paytm had its best ever quarter in the first three months of this year after pandemic-related spending spurred digital payments.

Sharma of Avendus says there are likely to be many India tech companies heading for public debuts in the next few years. He counts 57 that have grown to unicorn status, worth $1 billion or more.

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“Many of these companies are seeing 50 to 60% growth annually, are profitable,” Sharma said. “The market is waiting for these companies to go public.”

By Saritha Rai

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