India’s largest e-commerce marketplace Flipkart on Wednesday said it has completed the $100-million buyback of employee stock options (ESOPs), making it the largest share buyback programme by an unlisted company in the country.
The programme allowed over 3,000 current and former employees of Flipkart as well as subsidiaries Myntra, Jabong
to sell a percentage of their stock options. This is the fourth and largest share buyback Flipkart has done in the past five years.
“Employees are our biggest source of strength, without whom Flipkart couldn’t have built the e-commerce industry in India. As an organisation, we believe they should be equal partners in Flipkart’s success. This ESOP repurchase programme is an extension of that culture, and a token of thanks for the dedication and hard work they have put in over the years,” said Sachin Bansal, Chairman of Flipkart, and Binny Bansal, Group CEO, in a statement.
The call for buying back shares came soon after Flipkart raised $2.5 billion from Japanese investor Softbank in August which had agreed to buy shares from existing investors in the company. Late last month, Softbank had reached out to other investors in Flipkart to buy their stock at a valuation of $9-10 billion.
Softbank has committed to invest $1.2-1.4 billion in purchasing shares in Flipkart on the secondary market, people in the know have told Business Standard
. Apart from employees, investors such as Tiger Global
and Accel Partners
are expected to cash in, as Softbank looks to increase its shareholding in India’s only competitor to US online retail giant Amazon.
Flipkart would buy back shares at a cost of $85.2 per share with a transaction fee of around $3-4 according to news
reports in October. Current employees would be able to sell up to 25 percent of their stock options while former employees would be allowed to liquidate only 10 percent of their holdings.
Flipkart says the share buybacks are a way for it to share some of its success with employees. It has wanted to be seen as a company that goes out of its ways to protect employee interests. In April, after the company raised $1.4 billion from Tencent, eBay and Microsoft at a valuation of $11.6 billion (down from a peak of 15.2 billion), Flipkart said it would compensate all eligible employees with additional shares to make up the difference.
"It is not common practice to shield employees from a funding round that values a company lower than it was valued at earlier. That privilege is usually reserved for investors,” Sachin Bansal
and Binny Bansal
had said in a joint statement at the time.