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How $400 mn acquired Freecharge may go to Softbank’s backed Paytm in $50 mn deal


What was one of the biggest and thriving acquisitions in the internet consumer space in India last year, is now all set to be laid to rest. Freecharge, an online mobile wallet, was bought by Snapdeal in 2015 for whopping $400 million (approx Rs 2,400 cr) in 80 percent stock and 20 percent cash deal, is in sale talks with many bidders including Paytm, Bank of Baroda and Times Internet.

According to insider source, Paytm is leading the talks with Snapdeal to buy Freecharge in a deal one-eighth of its acquisition amount. Paytm has signed some definitive agreements to Jasper Infotech, which runs mobile wallet Freecharge, said a report in the Financial Express.

Freecharge, meanwhile, contacted another probable buyers in Bank of Baroda, and Times Internet. The deal almost on the final stage, any one of three will seal the deal anytime, added source.

Negotiations are on to ensure that the 200-250 employees of FreeCharge are also absorbed by the firm that acquires the company.

For Bank of Borada, if the deal gets sealed, will allow the bank to expand the mobile wallet service it launched last year and also get access to million of millenial customers Freecharge has on its platform.

In 2016, Bank of Baroda launched its own mobile wallet M-Clip. If the deal goes Times Internet’s way it will help the company to integrate Freecharge with its properties – Indiatimes shopping, Cricbuzz and Gaana.

Meanwhile, parent entity Snapdeal had signed a non-binding letter of intent with Flipkart for acquisition.  At present, due diligence of Snapdeal is underway. According to multiple media reports, Flipkart will consume Snapdeal in less than $1 billion.

In February this year, it had first time approached Paytm for the sale after its talks with PayPal and PayU went haywire.

What Paytm will gain from Freecharge?

Paytm is reported to be the closest to the deal to acquire Freecharge. SoftBank had also talked to Paytm to sell the digital payments platform at a discounted rate of $150-200 million. According to sources, Softbank has not managed to find an interested buyer which is willing to pay more than $50 million.

Paytm, backed by Alibaba, wants Freecharge’s deal at around $30-50 million.

Paytm may not get much through the deal as FreeCharge does 3.5 lakh transactions a day, whereas Paytm claims to make more than 50 lakh transactions a day. According to the sources, there is not much merit for Paytm in the deal, however Softbank, the common investor in both companies may want to have a gracious exit in Freecharge via Paytm.

Recently, Softbank infused $1.4 billion into Paytm at the valuation of $7 billion. It will help Paytm launch slew of services and acquire more customers for its platform.

FreeCharge holds second position in terms of marketshare after Paytm. It has lost users quickly to Paytm and Mobikwik after its acquisition by Snapdeal. The Bengaluru based company competes with aforementioned companies in the mobile wallet space.

Some of the key merchants on its platform are IRCTC, Foodpanda, Swiggy, Zomato, McDonalds, Shoppers Stop and Pantaloons, among others.

Freecharge, an online mobile wallet, was bought by Snapdeal in 2015 for whopping $400 million (approx Rs 2,400 cr) in 80 percent stock and 20 percent cash deal

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