Franklin Templeton snaps up shares of fallen Indian tech start-ups after $20bn wipeout

Funds managed by Franklin Templeton bought shares of Delhivery and PB Fintech

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and chairman of One97 Communications, operator of Paytm, at the company's IPO at the Bombay Stock Exchange in November 2021. Paytm's market capitalisation shrank $12.7 billion. Bloomberg
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Global investment manager Franklin Templeton bought shares of some Indian technology start-ups after concerns over valuations and higher interest rates shaved more than $20 billion in market value from five high-profile recent market debutants.

“We are looking at new tech companies as their valuations have been reset,” Anand Radhakrishnan, chief investment officer for equities at Franklin Templeton’s India unit, said in an interview.

“More importantly, there is data available about their business models.”

Initial public offerings of Indian internet firms boomed in 2021 thanks to pandemic-triggered easy-money policy and government efforts to foster start-ups.

The stocks were hit last year by caution over fundamentals and governance, magnified by the impact of the global tech sell-off amid US Federal Reserve policy tightening.

Some new tech firms have begun to show signs that they can generate profits, supported by first-mover advantages and big market shares, Mr Radhakrishnan said.

Funds managed by Franklin Templeton bought at least 3.3 million shares of e-commerce logistics provider Delhivery and more than two million shares of PB Fintech, the operator of online insurance marketplace Policybazaar, in November, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The purchases followed steep losses in the two stocks as well as One 97 Communications, parent of digital payments firm Paytm, online food delivery company Zomato and FSN E-Commerce Ventures, which owns beauty product e-retailer Nykaa.

Paytm suffered the most, with its market capitalisation shrinking $12.7 billion.

“We didn’t participate in these IPOs, except Zomato, but now we see a lot more transparency, a lot more discussions with management are happening,” said Mr Radhakrishnan, who overseas assets valued at $7 billion.

The firm, whose $1.3 billion India Flexi Cap Fund has outperformed 86 per cent of its peers over the past three years, recognises the disruptive nature of some of these businesses and “their medium-to-longer term ability to make money”, he said.

Meanwhile, stocks in India are likely to show a better performance in 2023, having undergone time and value correction over the past year, Mr Radhakrishnan added. Valuations have become more moderate, allowing the possibility of reasonable returns, he said.

Debt investments in India have also started looking attractive compared to a year ago but there remains scope for more exposure to stocks as local investors are “under invested”.

“I think risk capital is scarce in the country and the relative tax advantage helps people to channelise savings to riskier capital avenues,” Mr Radhakrishnan said.

Updated: January 07, 2023, 3:00 AM