The Competition Commission of India has granted its approval to Amazon to acquire a majority stake in Prione Business Services. The latter is the parent company of leading online seller Cloudtail India.
“The proposed combination pertains to the proposed acquisition of 76% of the equity shares of Prione Business Services Private Limited by Amazon Asia-Pacific Resources Private Limited,” the antitrust watchdog said in a statement.
Prione is a joint venture between Amazon and Catamaran – the private investment office of Infosys co-founder N. R. Narayan Murthy. Last year, Amazon had sought CCI’s permission to buy the 76% Catamaran’s stake in Prione. The development came after both parties had agreed to end their venture in May 2022.
Notably, existing regulations in India prohibit online marketplaces as well as their subsidiaries from holding equity stake in any of their sellers or maintain control over their inventory.
Amazon Asia-Pacific Resources Private is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc. (ACI). While the former does not undertake any business activity in India, its parent has subsidiaries registered or operational in India.
Meanwhile, Prione is an Indian owned and controlled company with Catamaran being the acting trustee. Hober Mallow Trust owns 76% of the share capital of Prione, CCI said in its statement. Amazon Asia-Pacific Resources already owns 23% of Prione’s share capital, while Amazon Eurasia Holdings S.a.r.l. owns 1%. Amazon had to reduce its holdings in Prione in light of the new FDI regulations, bringing them down to 24% compared to 49% earlier. Catamaran owned the rest.
Prione offers a variety of services tailored to help small and medium businesses (SMBs) run their online businesses efficiently, including digital cataloging, advertising, training and consulting, advisory and value-added services, adopting digital payments, and other overall enablement services, CCI mentioned.
Prione also has a wholly owned subsidiary Cloudtail India Private Limited, which is engaged in B2C retail business in India. Set up in 2014, it currently offers for sale products to customers on the online marketplace, www.amazon.in, operated by Amazon Seller Services Private Limited. Cloudtail is also engaged in wholesale (B2B) trading of products through online and offline channels.
Cloudtail had become one of the largest sellers on Amazon India, accounting for 50% of sales on the Jeff Bezos-controlled e-commerce site. However, its share in sales via the platform had to be brought down after the government tightened the rules in 2016, mandating that a seller can account for only 25% of sales on an online shopping site.
Amazon had also diversified its basket of sellers following reports of it extending unjust favours to some of the sellers, including Cloudtail. In 2017, it had also formed a joint venture with Patni Group to set up Frontizo Business Services. Frontizo offers customer support service on Amazon, whereas its Appario is one of the major sellers on the site.