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Walmart pays $3.5B to increase stake in India's Flipkart

Image Credits: Anindito Mukherjee / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Walmart has spent $3.5 billion this year to acquire shares from certain Flipkart stakeholders and resolve liabilities with some PhonePe shareholders, illustrating just how aggressively it's betting on India at a time when its chief global rival Amazon is scaling back on its expenditures in the South Asian market.

The $3.5 billion spending took place in the first six months of 2023, Walmart disclosed for the first time in an SEC filing Friday. Walmart's ownership in Flipkart now stands at about 80%.

Some of the investors who sold their stakes in Flipkart this year include Tiger Global, Accel and Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal, an earlier Flipkart filing showed. Tiger Global disclosed earlier that it made an overall gain of $3.5 billion on an investment of $1.2 billion in Flipkart, its biggest win in the South Asian market.

Walmart, which also owns majority of PhonePe and has spent over $20 billion on the two businesses, is ramping up its investment in the Indian e-commerce and payment platforms at a time when many other companies, including Amazon, have scaled back on their expenditures.

To put this figure in perspective, Amazon plans to invest less than $2.5 billion on its e-commerce platform in India in the next seven years.

Amazon, which has invested over $11 billion on its e-commerce group and AWS in India in the past decade, plans to invest $15 billion more by 2030. Of this $15 billion, Amazon has earmarked $12.7 billion for its cloud business.

In an earnings call last month, Walmart said PhonePe and Flipkart are continuing to demonstrate impressive growth.

“Flipkart delivered strong GMV and net sales growth as the core business continues to grow well," said Walmart CFO John David Rainey.

"The team continues to work on expanding the ecosystem of product and services like advertising, travel, and healthcare, and on delivering continued contribution profit improvement. Flipkart’s consistent progress and performance reinforces our confidence in the long-term value of this business."

India has emerged as a key battleground for global firms as they race to find their next billion customers.

"India is the new China and the fastest growing major economy in the coming decade and beyond," Baron Capital wrote in a recent fund letter.

"We believe India offers the most attractive long-term investment appeal in our universe. Economic reforms, digitization, formalization, and rising credit penetration favor the most sophisticated, best-managed, public corporations."

PhonePe, which separated from Flipkart, has disclosed $850 million in new investment in recent quarters from a number of investors, including General Atlantic, Tiger Global and Walmart.