Alibaba eyes a move into online payments in India

January 14, 2015 03:37 PM

(Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is in talks to buy a minority stake in India’s One97 Communications Ltd., owner of an online payments processor, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Chinese e-commerce company plans to invest a maximum of $200 million in One97, the people said, declining to be identified because the talks are private. Alibaba’s financial arm, Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co., is discussing a separate investment in One97, the people said. Alibaba Group is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Asia 500.

Alibaba’s billionaire founder, Jack Ma, has made global expansion a priority after the e-commerce giant raised a record $25 billion in an initial public offering in September. Acquiring a stake in One97, which owns the Paytm processor, would be another way for Alibaba to tap into India’s burgeoning online shopping market without setting up a separate business.

“India is a great market for Alibaba to expand into, with its huge population and still nascent e-commerce space,” said Cao Lei, director of China E-Commerce Research Center, a Hangzhou-based consulting agency. “It would help Alibaba by finding a local partner that understands the market.”

Alibaba has made headway in countries including Brazil, Russia and Spain. The company’s online payment system, Alipay, had 17.9 million active users overseas in more than 100 countries and was accepted by 2,000 merchants overseas as of October.

India Expansion

India’s e-commerce market is projected to grow 70% to $6 billion this year, researcher Gartner Inc. said in October. That has attracted foreign investors including billionaires Masayoshi Son and Yuri Milner, who’ve pumped a combined $3.6 billion since July into, and’s India business -- the nation’s three biggest Web retailers.

Sonia Dhawan, a spokeswoman for New Delhi-based One97, said the company was in the process of raising money, and she declined to comment further. Alibaba declined in an e-mailed statement to comment on the talks.

AliExpress, an Alibaba platform popular in markets outside China, including Russia and Brazil, also ships to India. Customers in India can pay with Visa, MasterCard or Western Union.

Alipay currently doesn’t support account registrations by users from India, the company said in an e-mail.

Intel Funding

One97, which was founded in 2000 by engineering graduate Vijay Shekhar Sharma, has received funding from Intel Capital, private-equity firm SAIF Partners and Fitbit Inc.-backer Sapphire Ventures. The company began as a provider of value- added-services for mobile phones and later evolved into a marketing platform for consumer brands to reach customers via text messages and voice calls.

The payment-processing system Paytm is the public face of One97. Its business includes mobile-recharge services and an e- commerce platform where consumers can find goods including clothing and cameras. The service has 18 million users, according to December data from One97.

In November, Uber Technologies Inc. chose Paytm’s mobile wallet as its payment processor in India.

A potential Alibaba investment related to Paytm was first reported by the Economic Times Jan. 10.




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