SoftBank, Ant discuss to sell Paytm stake via block deal

BENGALURU – China’s Ant Group and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp have discussed selling stake in One 97 Communications, which operates Indian digital payments firm Paytm, through a block deal, India’s Economic Times newspaper reported on Monday.

Paytm has been under pressure to turn profitable ever since its dismal listing in November 2021.

The stock has declined around 70 per cent since listing, and tumbled 60 per cent in 2022, despite the company announcing a share buyback worth up to 8.5 billion rupees (S$138.4 million) in December. Last year, Paytm said it would become free cash flow positive in next 12-18 months.

Shareholders and investment banks representing the Ant Group and Softbank had earlier approached Bharti Airtel founder-chairman Sunil Mittal with an offer to buy their stakes, according to the report, citing people familiar with the matter. The talks did not make much headway and Bharti is not currently engaged in conversations on this issue, it added.

SoftBank, Ant Group, Paytm and Bharti Airtel did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comments.

Ant and SoftBank are likely to offload shares gradually in the market as part of their plan to exit Paytm, the report said.

China’s Alibaba Group earlier this month sold its remaining stake in Paytm for about 13.78 billion rupees. It was not immediately clear why Alibaba sold the stake.

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