Warren Buffett, Jack Ma-backed Paytm looks to break even, but when?
Paytm, the Indian digital payments pioneer grappling with a regulatory audit of its data-management systems, expects to break even on an operating basis over the next year-and-a-half. The startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp. and Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co. -- it also counts Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. as an investor -- predicts it will become profitable in six quarters on an operating earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization basis. That forecast followed a doubling of its gross merchandise value to 2.59 trillion rupees ($34.3 billion) in the three months ended March, the company said in a statement Wednesday.
The brand that listed as One 97 Communications Ltd., which competes with the likes of Google Pay and Walmart Inc.’s PhonePe, climbed more than 3% after revealing its projection. It averaged almost 71 million transacting users in the quarter, it added.
Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma has been struggling to win back investor support since the company pulled off India’s largest-ever initial public offering in November, touted by some as a symbol of India’s growing appeal as a destination for global capital. While the offering raised a record-setting $2.5 billion, shares plunged 27% on debut and have dropped more than 70% from the 2,150 rupee IPO price.
Investors have grown increasingly wary of its longer-term growth prospects and potential regulatory tangles. In March, the central bank barred the company’s lending venture from accepting new customers, citing concerns that it may have shared local users’ data abroad, including with Chinese-based entities. Paytm has yet to appoint an independent firm to audit its practices. The company has shed about 70% of its value since its IPO.
The 43-year-old Sharma, from the small central Indian town of Aligarh, founded One97 about two decades ago and won acclaim nationwide as a small-town-boy-made-big. But analysts including those at Macquarie Capital Securities (India) Pvt. have questioned his ability to turn Paytm into a profitable business any time soon.