NEW YORK/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Berkshire Hathaway invested 25 billion rupees ($356 million) in the Indian company behind digital payments firm Paytm, according to a source with direct knowledge of the deal, in a foray by the conglomerate into India and the financial payments industry.
Billionaire Chairman Warren Buffett’s assistant, Debbie Bosanek, confirmed Berkshire’s investment in India’s One97 Communications in an email. She said Buffett was not involved in the transaction.
India’s Economic Times reported earlier on Monday that Berkshire was in talks to pick up a 3% to 4% stake in a deal potentially valuing Paytm at over $10 billion. The report cited people familiar with the matter.
One of Buffett’s key investment deputies, Todd Combs, who is also seen as a potential chief investment officer at Berkshire, is leading the transaction, the newspaper reported. It has been a busy year for Combs, who has also been heading Berkshire’s efforts to start a healthcare joint venture with Amazon.com and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
In May, Buffett said at Berkshire’s annual shareholders meeting that the financial payments industry is a huge deal around the world and that many companies are working to reinvent the industry.
His conglomerate, meanwhile, has been under pressure to find significant investments and whittle down a $108.6 billion stockpile of cash.
Japan’s SoftBank and China’s Alibaba Group are among the major backers of Paytm.
One97 Communications, SoftBank and Alibaba did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.
($1 = 70.16 Indian rupees)
(By Trevor Hunnicutt and Sankalp Phartiyal; Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York and Sankalp Phartiyal in Mumbai; Additional reporting by Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Steve Orlofsky)