An Indian company with stakes in some of the most interesting unlisted stocks…

Unlisted companies are a beautiful thing. Especially the most profitable and recognized ones, because they have enormous growth potential. They don’t have to undergo the rigorous scrutiny they would need if they were publicly traded.

To put it simply, these companies can become much more profitable once they join the ranks of public companies by gaining a new investor and financing the amount of money needed to make it happen.

However, some investors don’t want to wait that long and want to be part of their growth story early on.

For these investors, one of the safest ways is to invest in companies that have a stake in start-ups and other unlisted stocks.

It turns out that some very well managed bluechips have already taken the next step. They have been investing in startups and unlisted stocks for years. These blue chip companies are looking for startups that fit the megatrends they want to follow.

In September last year, we wrote to you about such a company – Bharti Airtel.

In this article, we take a look at another blue chip company that has stakes in some of the most unlisted stocks – Infosys.

Investing in a better future

Tech companies are known to have maximum exposure to several unlisted startups. For example, Info Edge invested in almost two startups every month in 2021.

Among the leading IT companies in India, Infosys has made notable investments over the years and has invested in unlisted stocks.

Let’s take a look at some of the well-known and exciting private companies that Infosys has invested in.

#1 Starting drones – ideaForge

Since there are not many listed companies in the booming drone market, one has to look at the unlisted space to explore the opportunities.

Over the last 8 months, the number of drone start-ups has increased by 34% in India. It is the highest among other comparable economies.

IdeaForge is a leading startup in this space.

Founded in 2007, ideaForge has over 15 years of research and development (R&D) experience and holds over 20 global patents.

It dominates the security and surveillance segment with a 90% market share.

Indian Army, Adani Group, L&T, IOC, Survey of India, Indian Railways among others are its notable clients.

In 2016, Infosys first invested in ideaForge to focus on unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV (drone) solutions.

Five years later, in 2021, Infosys made another investment of US$1 million or 72 m in ideaForge.

This year in April, ideaForge raised an additional $20 million in a Series B funding round in which Infosys also participated.

The drone startup continues to benefit from its growth prospects as its order book is strong. Recently, it overtook competition Tata and Israeli defense contractors Aerospace Industries and Elbit to receive a big order from the Indian Army.

According to the company, one of ideaForge’s drones takes off every six minutes, serving either the defense and security establishment or commercial users like oil companies, Indian Railways or conglomerates like Adani and L&T.

If the company goes public in the future, Infosys can hit the jackpot as it has a stake of more than 20% in ideaForge.

#2 Digital Marketing Startup – Oddity

Oddity, based in Germany, is a digital marketing company, comprising digital-first brand management and communication, in-house production including virtual and augmented reality, experience design and e-commerce services at across Europe and China.

This year, Infosys completed the acquisition of Oddity. It will soon be integrated with Wongdoody, a similar digital agency acquired by Infosys in 2018.

The announcement of the acquisition was first made in March 2022 when Infosys agreed to pay $50 million or 3.8 billion in an all-cash transaction.

Think Metaverse when you think Oddity.

Indian IT companies are gearing up for a surge in demand for technology services for the metaverse. TCS, Infosys, HCL Tech and Wipro are piloting new initiatives, building proofs of concept and virtual labs to gear up for the metaverse.

Infosys hopes to use Oddity’s expertise in digital commerce services while asking Wongdoody to focus on marketing.

#3 Consulting in life sciences and technology start-ups – BASE Life Sciences

BASE Life Sciences offers management consulting services in the field of life sciences.

The Denmark-based startup focuses on cloud-driven digital platforms and data, to accelerate clinical trials and scale drug development. Collaborations with leading software technology vendors give it an edge.

In July 2022, Infosys signed an agreement to acquire BASE for up to €110 million in an all-cash transaction.

Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys, reportedly said:

This acquisition strengthens Infosys’ deep expertise in life sciences, further expands our footprint in the Nordic region and across Europe, and expands our digital transformation capabilities with cloud-based industry solutions.

Interestingly, Infosys’ consulting segment contributes only a fraction of its revenue. Still, the company largely focuses on this segment which was launched in 2004.

Over the years, it acquired Lodestone in 2012 and Noah Consulting in 2015.

Lodestone’s acquisition was for US$350 million while Noah Consulting was acquired for US$70 million.

By acquiring all these small startups, Infosys adds value to the consulting segment and could reap long-term benefits.

#4 Salesforce consulting firm – Simplus

Simplus, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, was launched in 2014. The company offers a wide range of sales force consulting, training and onboarding services as well as general sales force expertise .

In February 2020, Infosys first announced its intention to acquire Simplus for US$250 million.

In the same field, Infosys made an acquisition in 2018 by buying Fluido.

These two acquisitions show that Infosys wants more in-depth expertise around the sales force to make it a key part of its consulting operations.

#5 SaaS Provider – Panaya

This acquisition is the most famous in the history of Infosys acquisitions.

In 2015, Infosys acquired Panaya, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software company, for an enterprise value of approximately $200 million.

SaaS stocks are the next big thing and Infosys knew it years ago when it acquired Panaya.

Now, if this acquisition is the most talked about, it is because of its controversies. When the acquisition was announced, anonymous whistleblowers claimed the acquisition was overvalued.

This is why, after a long reflection, Infosys announced in April 2018 its intention to sell Panaya with Kallidus and Skava.

But the sales plan did not come to fruition as the company found no takers.

The acquisitions of Panaya (and Skava) were seen as legacy investments from the tenure of former CEO Vishal Sikka.

#6 Trading and Analytics Company – Blue Acorn iCi

Another significant acquisition for Infosys occurred in 2020 when it acquired Blue Acorn iCi, an Adobe Platinum partner in the United States and digital customer experience provider, for up to US$125 million or 9.2 billion.

The acquisition was undertaken by Infosys Nova Holdings, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Infosys.

Other Notable Acquisitions

These are just a few acquisitions that Infosys is known for. In addition to the above, the company has made investments in many other unlisted companies.

Here are a few:

Company Name Expertise in Purchase amount
Lodestone Holding SA Consultant $345 million
Skava Digital experience $120 million
Fluid Sales force and advice 65 million euros
Kaleidoscope Product design $42 million
Guiding the vision Service Now Partner 30 million euros
Carter Digital design agency

Data source: company website, annual reports

Conclusion

If you ask market experts about major IT stocks and their views on them, they will answer that IT indicators like Infosys and TCS have become elephants.

“They are good if you like dividend stocks. They can no longer help you generate above-market returns’

Their concern is understandable because for large IT companies, it is becoming difficult to grow organically.

But if they go the inorganic route and make big acquisitions, they’ll have enough tech pool with them and enough tailwinds to keep going.

To conclude, there is no denying that large companies like Infosys, among others, can do much better due diligence of startups, especially from a technology and R&D perspective, than we as individual investors.

However, as with any other investment, be sure to do your due diligence.

In this case, see if the unlisted company is generating stable revenue and profits. Because many of these unlisted companies and startups will be loss-making.

Watch this space for more and look forward to our next article on another company like Infosys and Bharti Airtel that could be a great way to play the startup opportunity.

Good investment!

Disclaimer: This article is for information only. This is not a stock recommendation and should not be treated as such.

This article is syndicated from Equitymaster.com

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