Walmart invests $200 million in Indian mobile payments giant PhonePe

PhonePe has raised another $200 million as part of an ongoing round, a move that has now helped it pull $650 million in recent weeks despite the market slump as the Indian fintech giant bulks up its war chest following its recent separation from parent firm Flipkart.

Walmart, which owns the majority of PhonePe, has invested $200 million into the startup. The ongoing round values the Bengaluru-headquartered company at $12 billion pre-money. The startup has said that it plans to raise up to $1 billion as part of the ongoing round.

“We are excited about PhonePe’s future and have confidence in how it continues to expand its offerings and provide access to financial services for Indians at scale. India is one of the world’s most digital, dynamic and fastest growing economies, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to continue to support PhonePe,” Judith McKenna, president and CEO of Walmart International said in a statement.

At a $12 billion valuation, PhonePe is India’s most valuable fintech startup. It competes with Google Pay and Paytm, the latter of which is currently valued at nearly $5 billion.

PhonePe dominates transactions on UPI, a network built by a coalition of retail banks in India. UPI is the most popular way Indians transact online — it processes more than 8 billion transactions a month. Google’s GPay and PhonePe currently process more than 80% of all UPI transactions.

Seven-year-old PhonePe commands about 50% of all these transactions and it’s not slowing down. The company said last week it was on pace to process transactions worth $1 trillion annually. Walmart, which also owns a majority share in e-commerce giant Flipkart, said last month the separation of Flipkart and PhonePe was “very analogous to eBay and PayPal, where each of them operating independently can pursue their own initiatives.”

A concern for PhonePe’s growth was the The National Payments Corporation of India, which oversees the UPI network, enforcing a check on the market share of each participating player. However, it recently extended the deadline until 2025, which has paved the way for another two years of fast growth for PhonePe.

PhonePe is also slowly becoming a distribution engine, leveraging the large base of 450 million registered users to cross-sell products such as insurance. The startup said it plans to deploy funds from the funding round to build and scale wealth management, lending, stockbroking, ONDC-based shopping and account aggregation businesses.

Industry experts reckon that PhonePe’s end game might be to become a bank, which they say justifies the lofty valuation. PhonePe clocked revenue of $234.3 million in the first nine months of 2022. It expects to post  revenue of $325 million in calendar year 2022 and $504 million in 2023, according to a valuation report prepared by auditing firm KPMG and filed by PhonePe in January.

The startup doesn’t expect to turn EBITDA-positive, a key profitability metric, until calendar year 2025, KPMG wrote in the report. PhonePe’s financials and metrics from the report have not been previously reported.

“We would like to thank Walmart, our majority investor, for their continued support of our long-term aspirations. We are excited about the next phase of our growth as we build new offerings for Indian consumers and merchants, along with enabling financial inclusion across the nation,” said Sameer Nigam, co-founder and chief executive of PhonePe, in the statement.