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Startup Byju’s Pushes Back Payments for $1 Billion Acquisition

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(Bloomberg) -- Online education provider Byju’s, India’s most valuable startup, is pushing back payments for an approximately $1 billion acquisition struck last year, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Blackstone Inc. and other shareholders of test-preparation provider Aakash Educational Services were due to be paid partly in cash and partly in Byju’s stock this week, but Byju’s sought a two-month extension, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter. Some sellers received partial payment in 2021, the people said. Blackstone, which owned 38% of Aakash, opted to defer payments due until this year, one of the people said.

The acquisition process is “fully on track and all payments are expected to be completed by the agreed upon date i.e. August 2022,” a Byju’s spokeswoman said. Blackstone didn’t respond to an email seeking comment and an Aakash representative declined to comment. The Morning Context reported earlier that the deal’s payments had been postponed.

Byju’s, one of the world’s most valuable startups with backing from Tiger Global Management and Mark Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, has expanded its business globally through acquisitions. But the tech investing climate has changed radically in recent months as company valuations have plummeted, and the number of startup deals and total funding raised dropping to its lowest level since late 2020.

Byju’s asked to push back the Aakash deal payments until late August because regulators have yet to clear the acquisition, said one of the people, adding that it had nothing to do with cash shortages. Blackstone and Aakash’s other shareholders agreed to the extension, the person said.

Even amid a constrained financing environment, Byju’s has sought to keep expanding. The company was in discussions to acquire a US target and was likely to bid for either Chegg Inc. or 2U Inc., people familiar with the matter said in May. It has previously sewn up deals to acquire companies in India, the US and Austria.

Byju’s was also in negotiations with at least three special-purpose acquisition companies and was aiming to unveil plans to go public via a merger with one of them, people familiar said earlier this year.

The education pioneer is India’s most valuable startup, with a valuation of $22 billion, according to the market researcher CB Insights. Its backers also include Silver Lake Management, Naspers Ltd., and Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital. The edtech provider has about 115 million students using its online learning platform, with 7 million of them paying annual subscriptions.

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