Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Indian edtech giant Byju’s, the country’s most valuable startup, is in talks to go public in the US by merging with a blank check company led by Churchill Capital, said a person familiar with the matter.

Byju’s, currently valued at about $21 billion, is aiming for a valuation of more than $45 billion and is looking to raise as much as $4 billion, the person said, asking for anonymity as they are not authorized to speak to the press.

The startup, which was founded in 2011 and launched its online learning platform in India in 2015, hopes to get listed in the US next year and is also exploring an additional listing in its home market at a later stage, the person said.

If the deal goes through, it would be the biggest SPAC deal to date, surpassing Singapore’s Grab.

Talks are not yet finalized and terms may change, the person warned. Bloomberg News first reported on the talks.

BestFitnessBands reported in August that Byju had begun contact with bankers to explore listing options. Several bankers offered Byju’s a valuation of $40 billion to $50 billion when listed next year, the report said.

Byju’s prepares students for undergraduate and graduate-level courses, and in recent years it has expanded its catalog to serve all college students. Teachers in the Byju app tackle complex topics using real objects such as pizza and cake.

The pandemic, which prompted New Delhi to enforce a month-long nationwide lockdown and close schools, accelerated the growth and that of several other online learning startups, including Bangalore-based Unacademy and Vedantu.

Valued at less than $6 billion in mid-2019, Byju’s has expanded into the US and several international markets in recent years and has made a series of acquisitions to fuel inorganic growth. This year itself, it has spent $2 billion in cash and stock to acquire 10 startups.

Byju’s says it has more than 100 million registered users, about 7 million of whom pay for the courses. The startup aims for revenue of $1.3 billion in its current fiscal year, it said.

The startup’s unusually aggressive quest for growth has also drawn serious criticism. The rest of the world and many media outlets have reported that the startup’s salespeople are misleading parents — many of whom cannot afford to buy the startup’s products — into persuading their children to join Byju. The startup has also previously used harassment tactics to silence its critics.

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