Prosus NV has canceled a $4.7 billion deal to buy Indian payments firm BillDesk after a collapse in valuations for major tech startups.
The deal, set to be the largest acquisition by Prosus, was canceled after “certain conditions precedent” weren’t met by the end of September, Prosus said in a statement. The company didn’t elaborate on the conditions.
“When Prosus struck the deal prices for technology companies were very different,” said FNB portfolio manager Wayne McCurrie by phone. “With it falling through, it means they won’t be buying an overvalued asset and can conserve cash.”
BillDesk will pursue all options to keep the deal alive, two people familiar with the matter said, who asked not to be named discussing sensitive information.
Representatives for BillDesk didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Prosus declined to comment beyond the company statement.
Prosus has invested close to $6 billion in Indian technology companies since 2005. The BillDesk deal would help increase the scale its other businesses, including payments, that are dwarfed by the value of its stake in Chinese game-maker Tencent.
The BillDesk deal had already received approval by the Competition Commission of India in September. A second and final regulatory clearance from with India’s financial regulator the Reserve Bank of India, was needed for the deal to be completed. An application with the central bank was submitted, one of the people said.
BillDesk, founded by three consultants from Arthur Andersen LLP more than two decades ago, benefited from a surge in growth in digital payments as Indians adopted smartphones and Internet access became ubiquitous. The founders stood to collect $500 million each from the deal, Bloomberg News reported when it was announced.
Since the deal was announced in August last year, technology firms and stocks worldwide has experienced significant sell-off and devaluations, following an increase in regulatory pressures, inflation and a concern that the global economy will tip into recession.
The Dutch ecommerce investor has since been selling off stakes in its holdings in Chinese Internet giants Tencent Holdings Ltd. and JD.com Inc. to help fund a share buyback.
“Many valuations have declined since the deal was announced, and Prosus’ broad scale and financial firepower mean it can afford to wait,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst John Davies. “In June, it announced a move to a more conservative investment strategy alongside its Tencent selldown,” he pointed out.
Prosus said its full-year operating loss narrowed to $859 million in the year through March from more than $1 billion, though core headline earnings per shares for the period — Prosus’s preferred measure of analyzing its finances — declined.