Alibaba exits India's Paytm, selling shares for $167 mln

BENGALURU, Feb 10 (Reuters) - China's Alibaba Group (9988.HK) has sold its remaining stake in Indian digital payments firm Paytm (PAYT.NS) for about 13.78 billion rupees ($167.14 million) through a block deal, stock exchange data showed on Friday.

The exit comes days after Paytm posted its first-ever quarterly operating profit as a listed firm, nine months ahead of its own target. Singapore E-Commerce Pvt Ltd sold 21.4 million shares of Paytm on Friday at 642.74 rupees apiece, a 9% discount to Thursday's close, NSE stock exchange data showed.

Paytm's stock tumbled nearly 8% on Friday to close at 650.55 rupees, but it is still up nearly 23% so far this year.

Morgan Stanley Asia (Singapore) Pte bought 5.42 million shares of Paytm at 640 rupees on Friday, the data showed.

It was not immediately clear why Alibaba sold the stake. Paytm and Alibaba did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

In January, Alibaba sold a 3.1% stake in the company through a block deal worth $125 million. Before that, the Chinese firm had a 6.26% stake in Paytm.

Paytm, which is also backed by China's Ant Group and Japan's SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T), has been under pressure to turn profitable ever since its dismal listing in November 2021.

The stock has declined around 70% since listing, and tumbled 60% in 2022.

Earlier this week, Macquarie Research double-upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "underperform", and bumped up the price target by around 80% to 800 rupees.

"Perhaps the last bear on the stock on sell side, we change our view and we double upgrade PayTM to outperform," Macquarie analyst Suresh Ganapathy said.

"We see a very visible change in approach of the management to deliver profits as evidenced by core EBIDTA profitability reported recently. We were earlier expecting losses to continue but at current rate of revenues and operating leverage kicking in, we expect accounting profits to be delivered by FY26."

($1 = 82.4480 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Dimpal Gulwani and Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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