BENGALURU, July 12 (Reuters) - Walmart Inc-owned Flipkart on
Monday ushered back SoftBank Group Corp as an investor
in a $3.6 billion funding round, doubling the Indian online
retailer's valuation to $37.6 billion in less than three years
and ahead of its expected market debut.
The U.S. retail giant bought a 77% stake in Flipkart
<IPO-FLPK.N> for $16 billion in 2018 and since then has expanded
to small towns and cities, added more items such as furniture
and grocery to its online store and increased its warehouses in
its race with Amazon.com's India unit.
The Bengaluru-based company is aiming for a $50 billion
valuation for its public listing as early as this year and was
in talks in the United States for a deal with a blank-check
firm, Reuters reported in March.
About $800 million of the latest funding came from the
Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. GIC, SoftBank Vision Fund
2 and Walmart were also among the lead investors.
"SoftBank's re-investment in Flipkart is driven by our
experience with and conviction in the company's management team
to continue addressing the needs of the Indian consumer in the
decades to come," Lydia Jett, partner at SoftBank Investment
SoftBank had sold its roughly 20% stake to Walmart as part
of the 2018 deal.
Like Amazon, Flipkart began by selling books but diversified
rapidly into selling smartphones, clothing and other items. It
has benefited from India's rapid smartphone adoption and cheap
mobile data that helped propel growth at digital startups.
The new capital will be used to expand operations and invest
further in the company's grocery, fashion and last-mile delivery
programs, Flipkart said, adding it currently has more than 350
million registered users.
"It is a triumph for Walmart as investors were initially
skeptical of the U.S. retailer's tie-up with Flipkart," said
Jason Benowitz, senior portfolio manager at Roosevelt Investment
He added the success of Flipkart bolsters India as a
destination for foreign investment.
Several Indian startups have spelt out plans to go public to
cash in on liquidity by foreign funds. Some closely watched
include food delivery startup Zomato, payments services Paytm,
beauty brand Nykaa and ride-hailing service Ola.
Twenty-two companies have debuted this year as of July 9.
There were $3.6 billion worth of IPOs in India in the first half
of 2021, up from $1.1 billion at the same time last year,
according to Refinitiv data.
The level so far this year is the highest since 2008.
(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru;
Editing by Arun Koyyur and Sriraj Kalluvila)