Prosus doubles down on India with $4.7 billion deal for BillDesk

FILE PHOTO: A logo of Prosus is diplayed at Amsterdam's stock exchange building as Prosus begins trading on the Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam
FILE PHOTO: A logo of Prosus is diplayed at Amsterdam's stock exchange building as Prosus begins trading on the Euronext stock exchange in Amsterdam, Netherlands, September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

August 31, 2021

By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Prosus NV doubled down on its investment in India on Tuesday with a $4.7 billion deal for payments platform BillDesk, making it one of the biggest players in the country’s fast-growing fintech sector.

Prosus, Europe’s answer to SoftBank and its Vision Fund, said BillDesk will complement its own PayU business, which operates in India, Latin America and Europe.

India has been a major focus for Netherlands-based Prosus but the BillDesk deal is its biggest investment there to date.

“This is really a transformative transaction for PayU and its position as one of the leading payment and fintech providers in India and actually in the world,” Prosus CEO Bob van Dijk said on a media call.

Prosus shares were up 5.1% at 73.96 euros by 1448 GMT.

Prosus, which was spun out of Naspers of South Africa in 2019, owns stakes in consumer internet companies in online marketplaces, educational software, food delivery and fintech.

Best known for its 28.9% stake in Tencent of China, Prosus is betting that its long-term investments can fill a yawning valuation gap and give it the same name recognition as one of the world’s most aggressive technology investors.

The rapid growth of the payments industry worldwide has been helped by rising demand during the pandemic.

PayU processed $55 billion in payments in the year ended March 31, 2021, a 51% increase on the previous year.

BillDesk processed $92 billion of payments in the same period. It made a net profit of 2.71 billion Indian rupees ($37.05 million) for the year ended March 31 2021, suggesting an acquisition price of more than 100 times earnings.

PayU CEO Laurent le Moal defended the price tag, arguing it makes sense given the rapid growth in BillDesk’s market, its leadership position, its current profit margins and the potential for the combined companies to enter adjacent markets.

“The price paid seems quite hefty at about 20 times revenues but there should be significant synergies in combining the two businesses, as well as very high growth to come, given the attractiveness of the Indian payment market,” said ING analyst Marc Hesselink in a note.

The deal to buy BillDesk, which was founded in 2000, is subject to regulatory approvals, including by the Competition Commission of India.

Prosus said Tuesday’s acquisition brings the total it had invested in the Indian market to more than $10 billion.

Prosus was advised by PJT Partners of the U.S. and Avendus of India. BillDesk was advised by Morgan Stanley.

($1 = 73.1500 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Potter, Edmund Blair and Susan Fenton)