Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has sold its remaining stake in Paytm, India’s top digital payment app, as it gradually divests from its Indian investments amid friction between Beijing and New Delhi.
Alibaba.com Singapore E-commerce Private Ltd sold 21.43 million shares of One 97 Communications, the parent company of Paytm, at 642.74 rupees apiece, according to Friday data from India’s National Stock Exchange (NSE). The deal is worth about 13.77 billion rupees ($167 million), according to CNN calculations.
In January, Alibaba sold about 3% of Paytm for $125 million, cutting its holdings from 6.26%, based on NSE data.
With Friday’s deal, it has sold its entire direct stake in Paytm.
Shares in One 97 Communications plunged nearly 8% on Friday. It bounced back slightly on Monday morning. Alibaba and Paytm didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Founded in 2010, Paytm is India’s largest payment platform, with more than 300 million registered customers and over 20 million merchants. It’s backed by big name investors such as Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba, Softbank (SFTBF) and Warrent Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA).
Alibaba and Ant Group together made a “strategic” investment in Paytm in September 2015, in an extension of the initial investment made by Ant in February of that year.
At that point, Alibaba said the investment would enhance its ability to tap opportunities in India’s fast-growing mobile commerce market and digital finance industry. Paytm and Ant Group had been working on “synergies” since Ant made the initial investment, the company said.
Ant Group, which operates China’s leading digital payment app Alipay, remains Paytm’s largest shareholder with a 25% stake, according to the most recent data from Refinitiv Eikon.
Alibaba has gradually exited its investments in India, after New Delhi imposed restrictions in 2020 that made it difficult for Chinese investors to invest in Indian firms.
China and India share a disputed border that has long been the source of friction between New Delhi and Beijing, with tensions escalating sharply in June 2020, when hand-to-hand fighting between the two sides in the Himalayas resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers.
Last December, Indian and Chinese troops clashed again along the border, which at the time was the first known incident between the two nuclear-armed Asian powers in nearly two years — though video later emerged suggesting a previously unreported clash occurred in 2021.
In early 2021, Alibaba sold a major stake in BigBasket, an online grocery retailer, to Indian conglomerate Tata Group. In May 2022, Alibaba and Ant Group offloaded their entire stake in Paytm Mall, the e-commerce platform of Paytm. In November 2022, Ant Group reportedly sold a stake of about 3% in Zomato for $200 million, according to Reuters.
Alibaba itself has also been under pressure from domestic regulatory crackdowns and economic headwinds. A government campaign aimed at reining in the country’s technology giants, coupled with a weak economy, has sharply slowed sales growth at the company, battered its share price and made business expansion more difficult.
Last year, Alibaba posted flat revenue growth for the first time since going public in 2014, CNN reports.
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