SEATTLE, United States — Walmart Inc. is close to finalising a deal to buy a majority stake in India’s leading e-commerce company for at least $12 billion and may complete the agreement in the next two weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.
All the major investors in Flipkart Online Services Pvt are now on board with the Walmart purchase, after an earlier debate over whether to sell to Amazon.com Inc., said the people, asking not to be named because the matter is private. Tiger Global Management will sell nearly all its 20 percent stake in Flipkart, while SoftBank Group Corp. will sell a substantial part of its 20 percent-plus holding, the people said. Walmart will likely end up with 60 percent to 80 percent of Flipkart, which will be valued at about $20 billion, they said.
Among the issues that still need to be resolved are what happens to Flipkart’s founders and who will lead Flipkart after the purchase, they said. The amount each existing investor sells and the size of Walmart’s final stake still need to be finalised, they said. It’s also possible that terms will change or the talks will fall apart.
If completed, the deal would give Walmart a substantial foothold in an emerging market of 1.3 billion people. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company is the world’s largest retailer, but it has struggled against Amazon as consumers increasingly migrate to online commerce. India is the next big potential prize after the U.S. and China, where foreign retailers have made little progress against Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
Walmart declined comment. Flipkart didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Flipkart’s board recently met to discuss the competing proposals and decided Walmart could close a deal more easily. Walmart faces fewer regulatory hurdles because it has no online retail presence in the country now, while Amazon is the second-largest e-commerce player and Flipkart’s primary rival. Flipkart founders Sachin and Binny Bansal are also said to have favoured Walmart.
A Walmart deal has been discussed since at least last year. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has committed $5.5 billion to India and his country chief, Amit Agarwal, has made progress by adapting the site to local conditions.
A $20 billion price tag would be substantially higher than Flipkart’s valuation of about $12 billion last year. It is already the most valuable startup in India.
Tiger and SoftBank are currently the startup’s largest shareholders, followed by South Africa’s Naspers Ltd. If the deal goes through, it would be the biggest in the nascent history of Indian e-commerce.
By Saritha Rai; editors: Peter Elstrom and Edwin Chan.