Zomato, a restaurant directory service, is busy buying companies across the globe. What’s interesting is this startup is based in New Delhi, causing deal pros in the middle market to wonder whether or not more acquisitive suitors could show up on U.S. shores.
A budding pro-capitalist economy, as well as improved tax relations, indicate that there could be more Bharat-based buyers on the way. (For more cross-border coverage, see 5 Buyers Find New Customers Abroad.)
It’s common for U.S. companies such as Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), Google (Nasdaq: GOOGL) and Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) to “acqui-hire” Indian startup teams, but rare for an India-based startup to display the same moxie overseas.
Zomato’s CEO, Deepinder Goyal (pictured), has unveiled plans to pick a “fight” with Yelp, the market leader of restaurant ratings. “They have dominated for so long,” Goyal says in a company blog post. To give its San Francisco rival a run for its money, Zomato used M&A to grow to more than 130 cities in 20 countries. Most recently, it purchased Seattle-based Urbanspoon for $60 million.
Other recent India-to-U.S. deals in 2014 include Bangalore-based Wipro Ltd.’s (NYSE:WIT) acquisition of due diligence provider Opus Capital Markets Consultants for $75 million. After that, Stoneridge Inc. (NYSE: SRI) sold its wiring business to Noida, India-based manufacturer Motherson Sumi Systems Ltd. for $65.7 million.
These deals were just two of the 19 that India-based buyers completed with U.S. targets in 2014, up 32 percent from 2013, according to data provided by Thomson Reuters.
"There has been a increase in Indian outbound M&A interest and volume over the last 6 months," reports Shirish Nimgaonkar, managing director of investment bank C.W. Downer & Co. The increase in Indian outbound M&A is driven by several factors, he adds, citing how increasing stock prices of most Indian companies are improving confidence and providing currency for acquisitions, as well as the desire to diversify revenues out of India.
"Fundamental change on the ground in India will still take 12 to 18 months," he predicts.
Expect more Indian strategic buyers to be "entering new markets, particularly in the services sectors, such as IT, pharma, and niche industrial sectors," says Rajesh Jain, head of investment banking, IDFC Securities Ltd.
The trend comes at a time when the new Indian government promises a pro-business agenda with an eight-month plan to significantly boost both domestic and foreign investor sentiment, especially overseas, according to a report from consulting firm Nishith Desai Associates.
"India went through a challenging time from 2011 to 2014," Nimgaonkar adds. However, a new "pro-growth government has improved the business sentiment in India and towards India significantly," he adds.
Other advisers agree.
"While we are witnessing a trend of domestic consolidation, we believe that Indian corporates are already and will consider acquisitions in India and internationally," says Pankaj Kalra, senior executive director, Kotak Investment Banking. "In terms of deal sizes, as is always, we will see more volume in the mid segment $200 million to $1 billion."
Zomato is perhaps the most acquisitive of the bunch. Five companies were purchased in 2014, including New Zealand’s Menu-mania, followed by online restaurant guide service Lunchtime.cz in the Czech Republic. Zomato also picked up Poland-based restaurant search service Gastronauci. The prices of those deals remain undisclosed, however the company is hovering in the lower middle market, spending $3.25 million on Obedovat.sk, a company in Slovakia. It also set aside $6 million for future deals in Italy, after buying Rome-based restaurant search service Cibando.
Should Zomato make a similar pledge in the U.S., more companies may want to brush up on their Hindi.
For more, see 10 Emerging Markets Markets to Watch.