Gojek in advanced discussions with Tokopedia over $18b merger, IPO

Gojek driver helmets are seen during Go-Food festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 27, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Indonesia’s ride-hailing and payments giant Gojek is in advanced discussions about merging with local e-commerce pioneer PT Tokopedia, ahead of a planned initial public offering of the combined entity, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The country’s two most valuable startups have signed a detailed term sheet to conduct due diligence of each other’s business, said the people, who asked not to be named as the discussions are private. Both sides see potential synergies and are keen to close the deal as soon as possible in coming months, they said.

The merged entity would create an Indonesian internet powerhouse with a combined valuation of more than $18 billion. Its businesses range from ride-hailing and payments to online shopping and delivery — a local mashup of Uber Technologies Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and DoorDash Inc. It plans to go public in the U.S. and Indonesia.

Gojek and Tokopedia have considered a potential merger since 2018, but discussions accelerated after deal talks between Gojek and arch-rival Grab Holdings Inc. reached an impasse, the people said. Grab Chief Executive Officer Anthony Tan continues to resist pressure from SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son to give up some control in a combined entity with Gojek, said the people.

Southeast Asia’s two most valuable startups — together worth about $25 billion — held on-and-off talks to combine after years of fierce competition in ride-hailing, food delivery and financial technology. As recently as December, the companies were said to have made substantial progress in working out a deal to combine, people with knowledge of the talks told Bloomberg News at the time. But they clashed over how to manage Indonesia, the key market in the region.

Son, who had been a steadfast supporter of Tan in the past, is losing patience with the Grab co-founder’s reluctance to cede some control and is now supporting a merger between Gojek and SoftBank-backed Tokopedia, the people said. The two home-grown tech pioneers have common investors, including Google, Temasek Holdings Pte and Sequoia Capital India.

Representatives of Gojek and Tokopedia declined to comment.

The firms are valued at about $10.5 billion and about $7.5 billion, respectively, according to people familiar with their accounts, and merger ratios are currently under discussion. Founders of the two companies have been friends since their inception more than 10 years ago and anticipate an amicable alliance. Grab and Gojek discussions were more contentious and had not progressed enough for them to sign a term sheet, the people said.

A combined Gojek and Tokopedia would dominate in Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest-growing internet economies. Their planned U.S.-listing would provide global investors an alternative to Sea Ltd., the only major Southeast Asian internet company listed in the U.S. Sea’s shares climbed almost 400% last year, boosted by the growing popularity of its mobile gaming and online shopping platform.

A deal between Gojek and Tokopedia is likely to face less regulatory opposition than the deal previously under consideration. The combination of Grab and Gojek would reduce competition in ride-hailing, delivery and digital payments in Southeast Asia, a prospect over which government officials have already expressed reservations.

The companies are contemplating several options for a public offering. They could choose a traditional IPO in Indonesia and the U.S. or work with a blank-check company for the U.S. listing, one of the people said. A handful of blank-check companies have held discussions with the two companies in recent months, the person said.

Tokopedia said last month it hired Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. as advisers to help accelerate its plan to go public, following a Bloomberg News report that Bridgetown Holdings Ltd., the blank-check company backed by billionaires Richard Li and Peter Thiel, is considering a potential merger with the e-commerce giant. The special purpose acquisition company is exploring the structure and feasibility of a deal with Tokopedia.

“We have not decided yet which market and method, and are still considering options,” the Jakarta-based company said in a statement on Dec. 16. “SPAC is a potential option that we could consider but we have not committed to anything at the moment.”

Bloomberg

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.