Why Didn't the Market Applaud When Walmart Made It Official With Flipkart?

In this segment of the MarketFoolery podcast, host Mac Greer is joined by Motley Fool analysts Andy Cross and Matt Argersinger to review a business tie-up that has been in the works for a while. Walmart (NYSE: WMT) picked up the majority of India's homegrown e-commerce site Flipkart for $16 billion, which it hopes will give both a major boost in their battle with Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN). But shareholders aren't always patient, and this is going to take a short-term bite out of Walmart. The Fools, meanwhile, present a different and diverse set of views on what this deal could do.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on May 9, 2018.

Mac Greer: Guys, let's close out with a story we've been talking about for a while. It was more in the rumor, reportedly stage, and now it's official: Walmart has agreed to buy a majority stake in India's Flipkart for $16 billion. Flipkart is India's biggest online retailer. Andy, what do you make of the deal?

Andy Cross: As we talked about, the rumors were out there this week and it became official today. They're buying 77% of Flipkart for $16 billion, which values Flipkart at about $21 billion. Walmart's down, the stock is actually down today because it will hit their earnings per share, shave $0.25 or $0.30 off earnings per share for Walmart this year and for next year. But clearly, Mac, as we talked about earlier, this is a growth story for Walmart. India is a huge market. The e-commerce market there is growing 30%. Plus, Flipkart is the biggest player, followed very closely by Amazon, hot on their heels.

Greer: I've heard of them.

Cross: Flipkart sales were a little shy of $5 billion, up 50% over the past year. That compares to almost $12 billion for Walmart e-commerce sales. Flipkart is going to be the back of Walmart's e-commerce business. Their Jet.com acquisition for a little more than $3 billion two or three years ago was a success, I think, and clearly, the CEO is driving into this area, recognizing the opportunity in India, but also where e-commerce going to go to. Obviously, it's gigantic. But, that's the future for Walmart. And, willing to fork over the capital. It's a lot of money. They have $6 billion of cash on the balance sheet, Matt. They're spending $16 billion on this. The co-founders and a few other partners will continue to own the remaining stake of Flipkart to have some skin in that game, too. But, clearly, it's a big investment for Walmart.

Matt Argersinger: As an Amazon shareholder and holder, as a lot of our listeners know, I actually think this is a win for Amazon. The headlines aren't saying that right now, they're saying Amazon, Jeff Bezos, they missed out on this opportunity. But, having followed Amazon so closely, I really wonder how much they were into this --

Cross: Totally.

Argersinger: I really feel like this was forcing Walmart to pay a big premium. And, I think Amazon knew that, like them being shut out of China, or at least having given up their business in China, Walmart was desperate to make a big deal. And India is the big emerging market prize. So, I feel like they forced Walmart to pay a big premium.

Amazon, from a standing start less than five years ago, has already grabbed about 30% market share. Now, that's behind Flipkart, but they are leading in certain categories, depending on the research report you believe. But, apparently, Amazon is leading in categories like grocery and household items, which I think are stickier, they're more recurring, in a lot of households.

I feel like, I just hearken back to what Bezos wrote, some of the things he wrote in his shareholder letter, which is: amazon.in, which is their Indian site, is the fastest-growing marketplace in India, the most visited site on both desktop and mobile -- I think that was kind of a shot across the bow at Flipkart. Amazon's mobile shipping app in the country was the most downloaded shopping app in India in 2017. And, Prime added more members in India in its first year than any previous geography in Amazon's history.

So, he's just throwing out those things, which makes me think, they gun for this country, they're making big progress. They forced a big competitor of theirs to pay a big premium for what I think ultimately could be the second-largest e-commerce company in India.

Cross: There's definitely a lot of game theory in this by Jeff Bezos.

Argersinger: Sure. [laughs]

Cross: I think you're right, Matt, I think they played this very well. I mean, it might have been nice, but they have an e-commerce platform, it's Amazon.com and amazon.in.

Greer: Which is pretty good.

Cross: Which is pretty good! Flipkart, I think, needed a partner like Walmart to help build out, continue to build out, their distribution network, and tie in on the e-commerce side. I think for them, it was, Walmart needs a splash like this. Jet.com was nice but it's not going to propel Walmart into where they need to be, especially when you're competing globally against the likes of Amazon.com.

Greer: So, compared to where you were yesterday on Walmart's stock, does this deal make the stock more attractive, less attractive, or it doesn't really matter?

Cross: To me, personally, I'm not buying Walmart and I'm not necessarily advocating for it. I think it's a good deal for them, because they need to have a bigger presence online. Even Walmart and their offline retail presence, as large as it is, that area is going to continue to get pressured over the next ten years.

Argersinger: Yeah. I'd say, as we tape, Walmart's down a few percent. Amazon's up a little bit. I think the market's made its assessment of the deal.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Andy Cross has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Mac Greer owns shares of Amazon. Matthew Argersinger owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.