Paytm’s Debacle Casts Doubt Over IPOs for Indian Startups

A stunning two-day plunge by Paytm casts a shadow over the prospects for technology firms preparing to go public.

Paytm’s Debacle Casts Doubt Over IPOs for Indian Startups
A worker prepares the stage during the listing ceremony for the IPO of One97 Communications Ltd., operator of PayTM, at the BSE. (Photographer: Dhiraj Sing/Bloomberg)

A stunning two-day plunge by India’s Paytm after its initial public offering casts a shadow over the prospects for technology firms preparing to go public in what was supposed to be the country’s breakout year. 

At least some of the IPO prospects that have been “on the periphery” and looking to benefit from the flood of transactions may now rethink the timing and pricing of their issues, according to Edelweiss Financial Services Ltd. Payment services firm MobiKwik may delay its IPO by a few months due to lack of demand from investors and a 30%-40% drop in valuation, the Economic Times reported Tuesday citing sources it didn’t identify. 

The Paytm debacle has dimmed the mood in India’s stock market with its benchmark S&P BSE Sensex Index poised to drop five sessions in a row, which would be the longest losing streak since March. While Paytm’s shares rebounded by as much as 6.5% in early Tuesday trading, the broader gauge continued to fall. 

Retail investors, who bought an unprecedented amount of shares in Paytm’s parent One 97 Communications Ltd., saw more than 30% of their value wiped out since the payment firm’s listing on Thursday. Further losses may be in store if the stock slumps from its Monday closing price of 1,359.6 rupees to the 1,200 rupees predicted by Macquarie Group Ltd.

“The event in a way will nudge people to be cautious and not take the market for granted by blindly placing bets,” said Gopal Agrawal, managing director and co-head of investment banking at Edelweiss Financial Services. “It is important that a company’s story and prospects are well understood by investors.”

Paytm’s Debacle Casts Doubt Over IPOs for Indian Startups

India’s equity markets had been on a tear this year, buoyed by a central bank that slashed interest rates to a record low and millions of new individual investors seeking higher returns in riskier assets. The rally has encouraged at least half-a-dozen technology startups to seek to public listings, including SoftBank Group Corp.-backed Oyo Hotels & Homes and logistics provider Delhivery Pvt. 

Firms in the South Asian nation have raised about $15 billion through IPOs this year, already an annual record by total proceeds. Yet critics have been questioning valuations on some of these IPOs, given they are still loss-making companies.

Paytm’s Debacle Casts Doubt Over IPOs for Indian Startups

“The pandemic led to huge technology adoption in the country that got priced into the valuations of many technology companies,” said Ashutosh Sharma, vice president and research director at Forrester Research Inc. “Is this the beginning of a downward trend? I don’t know. But going forward, investors will look cautiously on the risks and business future of tech companies.”

Paytm’s valuation, at about 26 times estimated price-to-sales for the financial year 2023, is expensive especially when profitability remains elusive for a long time, Suresh Ganapathy and Param Subramanian of Macquarie Capital Securities (India) Pvt. wrote in one of the few research reports covering Paytm’s prospects. Most fintech players globally trade around 0.3-0.5 times price-to-sales growth ratio, they said.

What Bloomberg Intelligence says:

“Domestic mutual-fund inflows of $1.2 billion in October and record-high participation via systematic investment plans underscore India’s structural trend of savings shifting to equities. In contrast, FII selling has gained pace with outflows of $2.3 billion in October, the highest monthly outflow since the onset of the pandemic.”

-- analysts Gaurav Patankar and Nitin Chanduka wrote in note published Tuesday

Paytm’s large IPO size also restricted demand, which could bode well for smaller prospective IPOs. Food delivery app Zomato Ltd. and beauty startup Nykaa -- both smaller than Paytm’s offering -- have seen their shares surge more than 80% since their IPOs.

Edelweiss’s Agrawal suggests pricing share sales to “leave something on the table for investors.”

“If an issue could be priced 10% higher or lower, it will be advisable to go with a lower pricing, which offers a much bigger upside when it comes to trade,” he said.       

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