FILE PHOTO: A signage of Shopee is pictured at their office in Singapore
FILE PHOTO: A signage of Shopee, the e-commerce arm of Southeast Asia’s Sea Ltd, is pictured at their office in Singapore, March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su

March 28, 2022

By Fanny Potkin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) -Singapore-based e-commerce and gaming firm Sea Ltd said on Monday it is withdrawing from India’s retail market just months after beginning operations there, citing “global market uncertainties”. The business withdrawal comes weeks after Sea’s e-commerce arm, Shopee, said it was pulling out of France and after India banned Sea’s popular gaming app “Free Fire”.

After the ban, the market value of New York-listed Sea dropped by $16 billion in a single day, leading some investors to cut holdings in it.

Shopee said in a statement it would work “to support local seller and buyer communities and our local team to make the process as smooth as possible”.

Reuters was the first to report the company’s decision.

The statement covered only retail, not gaming, activities in India.

The company is valued at around $65 billion, after reaching as much as $200 billion in late 2021 on the back of a COVID-fuelled shopping and entertainment boom.

The technology group began operations in India in October 2021 as part of an international push that saw it expand into Europe.

The local unit, Shopee India, recruited sellers and launched a shopping website. India’s fast-growing e-commerce market was already dominated by such players as Amazon.com Inc and Walmart’s Flipkart.

E-commerce players face a strict regulatory environment in India. New Delhi has for years imposed restrictions to protect smaller brick-and-mortar retailers.

Offline retailers have often alleged foreign companies bypass the regulations and offer deep discounts that hurt their business, allegations the companies deny.

Shopee had in recent months faced boycott calls from such traders in India. As of Monday, Shopee’s India website was still operational and said it offered “bumper discounts and attractive deals” to customers. LinkedIn showed several India job openings at Shopee.

Two sources with knowledge of the matter said Sea was continuing to lobby Indian authorities to lift the ban on “Free Fire”.

Reuters reported in February, citing sources, that Singapore authorities had raised concerns to India over the ban, asking why the company had been targeted in a widening crackdown on Chinese apps.

(Reporting by Fanny Potkin; editing by Bradley Perrett)



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