MARKDOWN

From $15.5 billion to $5.5 billion: It’s the year of devaluations but Flipkart’s not losing sleep

Quartz india
Quartz india

India’s most valued internet company has been devalued—yet again.

In one of the most drastic markdowns for Flipkart so far, one of its investors, a mutual fund managed by Morgan Stanley, slashed the Bengaluru-based e-commerce major’s value to just $5.54 billion (Rs38,030 crore). At its peak in May 2015, Flipkart was valued at $15.5 billion.

On Nov. 28, the fund, called Morgan Stanley Select Dimensions Investment Series, cut Flipkart’s share value by 40% to $52.13 apiece, as per a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the US. It holds 1,969 shares of Flipkart.

Since June 30, 2015, the fund has devalued Flipkart by 63% from $142.24 per share.

Here’s how the fund has valued Flipkart’s shares over the last two years:

Date of filing Value per share ($)
Sept. 30, 2016 52.13
March 31, 2016 87.86
Sept. 30, 2015 135.82
June 30, 2015 142.24
March 31, 2015 131

While the markdown may not impact Flipkart’s day-to-day operations, the company may face a hard time if it were to tap the market for funds anytime soon. However, India’s largest e-retailer remained upbeat when approached by Quartz for a response.

“Mutual fund mark-to-market is a purely theoretical exercise and is not based on any real transactions,” a Flipkart spokesperson said following the latest devaluation. “We are seeing a strong traction in our business momentum and operating performance.”

Valuations of Indian startups skyrocketed between 2014 and 2015 as global venture capital funds pumped an astronomical amount of money into the ecosystem. But, since the beginning of 2016, there has been a global correction in startup valuations, which has impacted India as well. Flipkart was the first Indian internet company to bear the brunt. But this markdown isn’t necessarily a reason to panic.

“The point to note is that Flipkart’s valuations are still higher than what the investors had entered the company at,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst at research and advisory firm, Greyhound Research. Morgan Stanley Select Dimensions Investment Series had bought Flipkart’s shares at $22.95 apiece in 2013, according to the regulatory filing.

“So it is a mistake to assume that investors’ money is going down the drain. This is not downsizing, it is just a mere correction, which was much needed,” added Gogia.

Volatile valuation

Correction in valuation has become routine for Flipkart this year. In February 2016, Morgan Stanley trimmed it by 27%. In May, Morgan Stanley again lowered it to $9.4 billion.

In April this year, another investor, T Rowe Price, cut the value of its holding in Flipkart by 15%. And earlier this month, two other investors, Valic and Fidelity, marked down Flipkart shares by 11.3% and 3.2% respectively.

Here’s the firm’s valuation journey from $5 billion to $15.5 billion, and back:

Month Valuation change
November 2016 Morgan Stanley reduces Flipkart’s valuation to $5.54 billion.
May 2016 Morgan Stanley marks down Flipkart’s valuation to $9.39 billion.
April 2016 T Rowe Price cuts the value of its holding in Flipkart by 15%.
February 2016 Morgan Stanley trimmed Flipkart’s valuation to $11 billion.
September 2015 Flipkart confirms its valuation at $15.2 billion.
May 2015 Flipkart raises $500 million at a valuation of $15.5 billion.
November 2014 Flipkart raises around $500 million at a valuation of $10 billion.
July 2014 Flipkart raises $1 billion at a valuation of $5 billion.

Such a sharp fall in the industry leader’s valuation may hit other Indian e-commerce players.

“From what I understand, Flipkart still has some cash left to run its business, so it may not be looking to raise funds immediately. But there are many other players who may not be in an equally comfortable position. They may need to raise funds soon, and in those cases, a down round looks almost certain,” said Arvind Singhal, chairman and managing director at management consulting firm Technopak.

Several media reports over the last year have suggested that Flipkart is desperately trying to raise funds but has failed due to differences with investors over valuations. Discussions with over 15 investors have been unsuccessful, the Mint newspaper reported in April.

However, in an interview on Nov. 02, Flipkart CEO Binny Bansal said that his company had no urgent need for funds. “We have raised enough money in the past, so there is no rush,” Bansal said. “We keep talking to investors all the time, and I think when there is a right match of expectations from both sides—that’s the way we like to raise funds.”

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