Berkshire Invests In India’s Paytm

The company, India’s largest mobile-payments firm, saw a spike in users after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to pull cash from circulation.
William SprouseAugust 28, 2018
Berkshire Invests In India’s Paytm

Berkshire Hathaway confirmed it has made an investment in One97 Communications, the parent company of Paytm, India’s largest mobile-payments firm. The amount wasn’t officially disclosed, but Dow Jones reported that Berkshire was in talks to invest 20 billion to 25 billion rupees ($285 million to $357 million), citing a person familiar with the matter.

CNN reported the deal would give Paytm a value of around $10 billion.

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Paytm is an e-commerce payment system and digital wallet company. Consumers use its applications for mobile recharges and utility bill payments; travel, movies, and event bookings; and in-store payments at grocery stores, fruits and vegetable shops, and restaurants.

The company said it has more than 300 million users. Usage rose after the Indian government made changes to its currency denominations in an effort to reduce tax evasion and corruption. The move triggered a cash shortage.

“If you’ll tell me of a wonderful company in India that might be available for sale, I’ll be there tomorrow,” Berkshire’s Warren Buffett said last year in an interview on Indian television. “I think the potential for India is incredible,” he said. “It’s a lot of people, a lot of buying power.”

Paytm “has the capability of becoming a Tencent, and they have time on their hands,” said Satish Meena, an analyst at Forrester Research.

For Berkshire, which is under pressure to find investments and whittle down a $108.6 billion cash load, the Paytm deal is an anamoly. Buffett traditionally invests in consumer, energy, and insurance companies.

Paytm does have competitors.

Google launched Tez, a mobile payments app, in India last year, and WhatsApp is reportedly testing a similar offering. Tez has now been rebranded Google Pay, and Google says it is teaming up with four Indian banks, including HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, to offer instant, pre-approved digital loans to customers.

Paytm had already received investments from Japan’s SoftBank and China’s Alibaba.