Despite being accused of financial misconduct, Bharat Pe cofounder Ashneer Grover has demanded a settlement of Rs 4,000 crore from investors to buy out his interest.
The newest news is that he is in talks to sell his 9.5 percent ownership in the fintech business, which might pave the way for a full exit rather than a protracted legal struggle with the board of directors. The three largest owners in Bharat Pe are Sequoia Capital India, Coatue Management, and Ribbit Capital, who hold the right of first refusal (rofr) on the founder’s shares and tag along rights.
What is BharatPe, and how does it work?
BharatPe is a fintech company that caters to small businesses and helps them accept digital payments. It was founded in 2018. Since its inception, Bharat Pe has disbursed approximately Rs 3,000 crore in loans to its merchants.
Ashneer Grover years after launching it and raised more than $600 million in equity funding from top investors such as Sequoia Capital India, Coatue Management, Insight Partners, Dragoneer Investment Group, Steadfast Capital, and Tiger Global.
Through a joint venture with Mumbai-based Centrum Financial Services, Bharat Pe has also received an in-principle small finance bank licence, allowing it to take over the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank and relaunch it as a small finance bank.
So, what happened in reality?
The whole thing started with a leak of audio:
BharatPe’s cofounder and managing director, Ashneer Grover, took a voluntary leave of absence on January 19 and would be gone till the end of March. The voluntary absence came two weeks after a recording of a phone call in which a guy, allegedly Grover, was heard cursing and threatening a Kotak Mahindra Bank employee after missing out on the IPO allotment for Nykaa’s initial public offering despite being promised one.
Ashneer initially described it as a “fake audio by some scammer attempting to extort monies,” but then removed the tweet. Ashneer is being sued by Kotak Mahindra Bank for using “inappropriate words” towards one of their employees.
Bharat Pe’s reaction to the revelations was interesting:
Bharat Pe said in a statement on February 4 that it has not yet received the final report from Alvarez & Marsal.
“We are gravely concerned that the Bharat Pe board’s or individual board members’ integrity is being called into question over and over again, based on false facts and unsubstantiated charges. The board has acted in the best interests of the company in all of its decisions. We strongly demand that the governance review and board meetings be kept secret and open to the public. We ask that everyone, including the media, exercise restraint and allow for a full governance investigation “In a statement, it said.
What is Ashneer Grover’s take on the financial irregularities?
Ashneer has contacted lawyers, according to reports, since he may be asked to quit the company permanently. He asserts this in an interview with moneycontrol “I’m not sure what I’m afraid of. I am India’s only startup to have created $6 billion in value with less than $150 million in funding. Put the figures of Razorpay, Paytm, and CRED, or any fintech valued greater than me, in place of the audit and the claims. What was the cost, and what was the value created? So, by that logic, everybody who spent more money than I did is a con artist.”
He further stated that the board of directors is attempting to ‘arm-twist’ him into negotiating and accepting a lower price for his shares. “If you don’t need me, I’m not interested in adding value to your life. I’ve already made two unicorns and have the ability to make three more. So make me an offer, and I’ll go my way while you go yours “he stated
Another accounting business has arrived:
According to reports, the Bharat Pe board has decided to hire accounting firm PwC to conduct an independent audit. Grover and his wife’s services will be terminated as a result of the move, as per an MOU condition, they can only be fired when a report from a Big 4 audit company indicts them.
Separately, Alvarez and Marsal are investigating the company’s policies, including accounting, approval processes, costs, and employment.