• Struggling to find a buyer, Jabong slashes price tag; finds no buyer even at Rs 663 crore

    Online fashion portal Jabong, which has been on the block for over a year, is struggling to find a buyer despite its investors dropping the asking price drastically, according to three people aware of the developments.

    The Rocket Internet-backed firm, which has posted a drop in sales and cut losses in 2015, has found no takers for even an estimated price of $100 million, said a source, a far cry from the price of around $1 billion that it sought during talks with Amazon India in 2014 that failed to result in a deal.

    While Jabong was founded under the banner of the German Internet incubator in 2012, the current push for a sale is being driven by Swedish investor Kinnevik, which owns a big stake in Jabong’s parent company Global Fashion Group, the sources told ET.

    “They (Rocket Internet and Kinnevik) just want to park the company somewhere, find a home for it,” said one person directly briefed on the matter. “But there are no buyers yet.” Earlier this month, Rocket Internet sold another of its India portfolio companies furniture portal Fabfurnish to Kishore Biyani’s Future Retail, signalling its intent to exit India.

    Biyani snapped up Fabfurnish for around Rs 11 crore, according to sources and company filings reviewed by ET. Jabong, too, has held talks with Biyani’s Future Retail, which made a preliminary offer for the company, said a person aware of the talks. But unlike Fabfurnish, Jabong has been able to hire top-level managers former Benetton India managing director Sanjeev Mohanty came on board in November 2015 as chief executive officer and former eBay executive Muralikrishnan B joined as chief operating officer in February.

    This could make it a relatively more attractive asset for overseas players looking to enter India, said experts tracking the process, especially after the government allowed 100% foreign direct investment in online marketplaces.

    A Rocket Internet spokesperson declined to comment.

    Mohanty said he would not like to comment on what he termed as “market rumours”. There were no replies to email queries sent to Future Retail and Kinnevik.

    QUESTION OF CHEMISTRY People aware of the developments within Jabong, which competes against Flipkart’s unit Myntra, said the problem that investors looking to sell the company face is not just about price, it is also about timing.

    “It’s a question of math as well as chemistry,” said one of the sources.

    In 2015, Jabong which has cut back on consumer discounts just as peers in the industry have done posted a 7% fall in revenue at Rs 869.1 crore but trimmed losses to Rs 46.7 crore from Rs 159.5 crore after a clampdown on discounts. Sources said that the issue with Jabong is that it has not been able to maintain growth without discounts.

    Gross merchandise value (GMV), or the total worth of goods sold, for the last quarter of 2015 fell by 19%. GMV for the year grew by just 13.8% in 2015 to Rs 1,502 crore compared with a 158% growth in 2014.

    With a pre-tax loss of Rs 426 crore, the company spent about 49 paise to get one rupee of sales compared with a 56-paise loss for every rupee earned in 2014.

    “Increased focus on gross profit margin, unit economics and overall profitability resulted in net revenue and GMV decline in Q4,” the company said in an investor presentation on Thursday.

    FRUGAL CULTURE Mohanty said in response to ET’s questions on financial performance that Jabong is “bringing in a very frugal culture and operating like how a good retail offline business should operate”.

    People tracking the company’s attempts to find a buyer argue that Jabong may have to bring down its valuation expectation, depending on how much cash it still has in the bank.

    Since August last year, its German parent company Jabong GmBH has invested over Rs 200 crore in Jade eServices, which owns and operates Jabong in India, in six tranches, according to regulatory filings reviewed by ET. This includes five infusions of around $5 million each, which is also pegged as the company’s monthly burn rate, every month from October 2015 to February 2016.

    Besides holding talks with Amazon India, which ended early last year, Jabong has also held discussions with other Indian online marketplaces. One of the people quoted above said an offer to buy Jabong at around $200 million in 2015 was rejected.

    “But if the price is right, they might take a look at the company (Jabong) once again,” this person said. 

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