BENGALURU: Snapdeal is in advanced talks to buy online mobile recharge platform Freecharge for $450 million (Rs 2,800 crore) in what will be the biggest deal in India's consumer Internet industry, according to two people involved in the transaction.
The deal will cement the Delhi-based marketplace's reputation as an acquisitive and ambitious company as it takes on Flipkart and Amazon for leadership in India's online retail business. "The two companies have signed off on the deal," said one person privy to developments. "It will be a combination of about 40% cash and the (balance) in stock."
So far, Delhi-based Jasper Infotech, which owns and operates Snapdeal, has announced five acquisitions and is expected to match that number in the coming fiscal.
The biggest deal in the consumer internet space so far is Flipkart's acquisition of fashion portal Myntra for an estimated $370 million (Rs 2,300 crore) in May 2014.
Backed by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, which invested $627 million (Rs 3,800 crore) in the company last October, Snapdeal is looking to build competence in the mobile and data analytics space.
Snapdeal in advance talks to buy Freecharge for Rs 2,800 crore: SourcesFreecharge, founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur Kunal Shah and Sandeep Tandon, head of technology conglomerate Tandon Group, is backed by Sequoia Capital and hedge funds Valiant Capital and Hong Kong-based Tybourne Capital Management which is also an investor in Snapdeal.
Last month, Freecharge, now led by CEO Alok Goyal, raised $80 million (Rs 496 crore) in funding, as it looks to increase its customer base by two to three times from the current 20 million. The Bengaluru-based company offers promotions or discounts from restaurants and retailers every time a customer uses its platform for a recharge.
Snapdeal and Freecharge did not respond to email queries on the deal. On Wednesday, ETreported that Snapdeal is in talks with China's Alibaba to raise $1 billion (Rs 6,200 crore) and also that it is negotiating to buy advertising network Komli Media for $300 million.
LOOKING TO MIMIC ALIBABA MODEL
The buzz of activity around the company, observers said, is a sign that Snapdeal is looking to mimic the Alibaba model in India. Kartik Hosanagar, a professor of Internet commerce at the Wharton School of Business, described the imminent acquisition as an "interesting move" because it will provide Snapdeal with access to the fast-growing mobile platform of Freecharge as well as access to credit and debit card information.
"If you look at Freecharge as a platform connecting buyers and sellers on mobile, the fit with Snapdeal starts to become obvious," he wrote in an email. Apart from acquiring premium fashion portal Exclusively.in last month for an estimated $50 million, Snapdeal also bought social product discovery platform Doozton in April and gifting recommendation venture Wishpicker in December 2014.
Prior to that, Snapdeal, which has allocated close to 60% of its total spend towards technology, including acquisitions, had acquired group buying site Grabbon.com in 2010, online sports goods retailer eSportsBuy.com in 2012 and online marketplace for handicrafts Shopo.in in 2013. It plans to make five more acquisitions, most likely in the mobile and analytics space, over the course of the upcoming fiscal.
70% TRANSACTIONS FROM MOBILE
Rival Flipkart, India's largest ecommerce venture, announced its acquisition of mobile ad network AdIquity, for an undisclosed sum, last week. This was its first major buyout since it acquired online fashion retailer Myntra.
In its last round of fund-raising in February, Freecharge was valued at about $350 million post-money, which refers to the value of a company after it receives outside funds or soon after the latest infusion of funds.
Almost 70% of its transactions come from the mobile platforms, and the firm is growing more than 400 % annually according to a company executive who confirmed the deal but declined to share specifics.
Sequoia Capital, one of the largest shareholders in Freecharge, said "it had no comments to offer", in an email response to ET. According to a January 21 filing with the corporate affairs ministry, Accelyst Solutions Pvt Ltd, which runs Freecharge, reported a total loss of Rs 36.42 crore for the year ended March 2014. "In a world where ecommerce companies are at a negative unit economics, investors are focusing more on positive unit economics rather than profitability," Goyal told ET in an earlier interaction.
(With inputs from Biswarup Gooptu in New Delhi)