Warren Buffett's Berkshire picks up stake in Paytm, gets Board seat

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New Delhi:

Billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has picked up stake in Paytm and will get a position on the Board, the largest digital payments company in India said on Tuesday. 

The companies did not disclose the details of the deal including the stake size or the amount invested by the US-based Berkshire.

According to sources privy to the development, Berkshire is pumping in about $300-350 million (about Rs 2,500 crore) into Paytm, valuing the Indian company at over $10 billion.

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With this deal, Buffett's investment firm joins Japanese giant SoftBank that had last year bought a reported 20 per cent stake in Paytm for an estimated USD 1.4 billion (over Rs 9,000 crore). 

One97 Communications, the owner of Paytm, counts marquee global investors like Ant Financial and Alibaba as the other key shareholders.  Todd Combs, investment manager at Berkshire, has joined the board of directors of Paytm, the company said in its statement.

 "I have been impressed by Paytm and am excited about being a part of its growth story, as it looks to transform payments and financial services in India," Combs said.

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Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said Berkshire's experience in financial services, and long-term investment horizon, will be a huge advantage in Paytm's goal of bringing 500 million Indians to the mainstream economy through financial inclusion.

According to reports, Buffett had at Berkshire's annual shareholders meeting, said the financial payments industry is a huge deal globally and that many firms are working to reinvent the space.  Also, the group has been under pressure to seek investment opportunities to utilise the over USD 100 billion cash on its books, he had.

For Paytm, the fresh funding comes as a shot in the arm at a time when it is locked in a bruising war with rivals like Flipkart's PhonePe and Google's Tez. The competition in the space is set to intensify further when WhatsApp launches its payments services in the Indian market.

 WhatsApp has been testing its payments services in India with about one million users and is awaiting regulatory clearances to commence full-fledged operations.

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Paytm, which has been aggressively diversifying its business into areas like investment management and e-commerce through various entities, had registered losses to the tune of Rs 899.6 crore in 2016-17. 

Its total income, on the other hand, had grown over 38 per cent to Rs 828.6 crore in 2016-17 from the previous fiscal.

The Noida-based company was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the government's demonetisation move in November 2016, that pushed adoption of digital payments across the country. 

Since then, Paytm's platform has seen manifold growth in transactions as well as expansion in number of users. It claims to have an annual run rate of 5 billion transactions and USD 50 billion in gross transaction value.

One97 Communications also owns 49 per cent stake in Paytm Payments Bank. The Paytm founder has also started e-commerce business under Paytm Mall that competes with giants like Amazon and Walmart-backed Flipkart. 

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