Walmart Inc. agreed to buy a controlling stake in India’s biggest online retailer, striking a blow against rival Amazon.com Inc. as the battle for e-commerce supremacy goes global.
The world’s largest retailer will acquire a 77% holding in Flipkart Group for $16 billion, the companies said in a statement. Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal and other shareholders will hold the remainder.
The deal — Walmart’s biggest ever — gives it greater access to India’s e-commerce market, which Morgan Stanley has estimated will grow to $200 billion in about a decade.
Flipkart, meanwhile, gets additional capital and expertise to battle Amazon, which has spent billions of dollars to gain customers in India. Online sales in the world’s second most-populous nation are growing about 35% a year, according to data tracker Euromonitor, fueled by a rising middle class and urbanization that both present an attractive environment for e-commerce.
Walmart was upstaged earlier Wednesday when Masayoshi Son, chief executive officer of SoftBank Group Corp., confirmed during a briefing in Tokyo that the U.S. retailer had agreed to buy control of Flipkart. SoftBank invested $2.5 billion in the Indian company and that stake will be worth about $4 billion in the deal, Son said.
For the U.S. retailer, acquiring a stake in Flipkart enables it to tap into India’s retail market without building stores. Walmart once envisioned operating hundreds of locations across India but it has been unable to open traditional units because of long-standing governmental rules for so-called multibrand international retailers.
Walmart entered India in 2009 through a joint venture with Bharti Enterprises, and took full control of that business in 2013. It currently operates 20 wholesale clubs in India that serve small businesses.