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Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway takes stake in India's Paytm

Holding company joins Alibaba and SoftBank in investing in digital payment startup

Advertising for digital wallet company Paytm at a roadside stall in Kolkata, India.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has acquired an interest in the parent of Indian mobile wallet and e-commerce company Paytm, joining Alibaba Group Holding and SoftBank Group as investors in the fast-growing startup.

Buffett's assistant Debbie Bosanek confirmed to the Nikkei Asian Review on Monday that Berkshire has invested in One97 Communications. Buffett himself was not involved in the transaction, she said via email.

Berkshire's first direct foray into an Indian startup and the financial payments industry came in the form of a 25 billion rupee ($356 million) investment, according to Reuters. India's Economic Times reported earlier on Monday that Berkshire was in talks to take a stake of 3% to 4% and that a transaction "could be clinched in the coming weeks" valuing Paytm above $10 billion.

Alibaba and SoftBank are among the digital payment company's backers. Through SoftBank's Vision Fund, One97 raised $1.4 billion in a deal announced last year in return for a 20% stake.

Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma told the Nikkei Asian Review earlier this year of the company's plans to focus on the domestic market over global expansion. India's 2016 move to demonetize 500 and 1,000 rupee bills gave Paytm a strong tailwind at home as consumers rushed to switch to mobile payments.

The nation's e-commerce market is expected to grow to $200 billion by 2026 from $38.5 billion in 2017 as internet penetration rises, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation.

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