Sea Ltd, an e-commerce and gaming company, announced on Monday that it is quitting India’s retail market only months after launching operations there, the second pullback in a foreign expansion drive this month as the loss-making company faces a negative growth future.
The move, which will take effect on March 29, comes just weeks after its e-commerce unit Shopee announced its exit from France and India banned Sea’s popular gaming app “Free Fire.”
Following the banning, the market value of Sea, which is based in Singapore, fell by $16 billion in a single day, prompting some investors to sell their shares.
Shopee said in a statement that the decision was made “in view of the global market uncertainties” and that it would make “the process as smooth as possible.”
Sea announced earlier this month that revenue growth in its e-commerce business would slow to roughly 76 percent this year from a blazing 157 percent in 2021, because of fewer online transactions and engagements as more countries recover from the pandemic.
“Due to a drastic shift in the market sentiment towards growth stocks, all these e-commerce companies are under real pressure to at least break even as soon as possible,” said LightStream Research equity analyst Oshadhi Kumarasiri, who publishes on the Smartkarma platform.
In afternoon trading, Sea’s shares on the US Stock Exchange dropped 3.2 percent to $112.35. Tencent, a Chinese digital powerhouse, said in January that it will sell 14.5 million shares in the company, causing the stock to drop 11%.
According to Citi analyst Alicia Yap, there is no clear indication that the decision to leave India was driven by government pressure or other operational decisions.
Shopee’s India operations began in October 2021, as part of an aggressive international expansion strategy that included the company’s expansion into Europe. Sea had a market capitalization of up to $200 billion at the time. In March 2022, it had reduced to $64.76 billion.
Shopee India, the local unit, hired local suppliers and created a shopping website and app. Amazon.com Inc and Walmart’s Flipkart were already dominant in India’s fast-growing e-commerce business.
Shopee’s decision to leave India, according to one source with direct knowledge of the company’s thinking, was prompted in part by increased regulatory scrutiny, which saw Sea’s gaming app Free Fire banned as part of a crackdown on businesses allegedly transmitting data to Chinese servers.
Sea had stated in March that it did not send or store data from Indian consumers in China. Shopee had planned to invest up to $1 billion in India, according to the report, and the decision would damage Indian logistics companies with whom it had inked lucrative contracts.
Upon asking for comment on the statistic, the business said it was “not accurate” and that “the decision regarding Shopee India has nothing to do with regulatory matters.” “We continue to work with Free Fire in India to address the situation,” the company said.
According to Reuters, Singapore authorities expressed concern to India over the restriction in February, citing sources, and asked why Sea had been chosen out.
In India, e-commerce business faces a strict regulatory environment. For years, New Delhi has implemented limitations to safeguard small brick-and-mortar businesses.
Foreign corporations have been accused by Indian merchants of circumventing restrictions and offering huge discounts that affect the local company, claims that the companies dispute. In recent months, such traders in India have called for a boycott of Shopee.