byjus: Byju’s in talks to sell US unit Epic for $400 million to Joffre

Troubled Indian education provider Byju’s is in advanced talks to sell its US-based kids’ digital reading platform for about $400 million to Joffre Capital Ltd., seeking funds to ease its financial pressures.

The potential sale of Epic! Creations Inc. would help Byju’s raise funds to pay down a disputed $1.2 billion term loan, people familiar with the matter said. Other bidders, including Duolingo Inc., have also expressed interest in buying the platform, they said, asking not to be named as the information isn’t public.

Byju’s and its creditors are locked in conflict over a missed interest payment on a term loan that the startup had taken out to help finance a global acquisition spree during the pandemic. The startup had made a surprise repayment proposal to lenders to pay back the entire $1.2 billion loan in less than six months through asset sales, Bloomberg News reported in September.

Moelis & Co. is running the sale process for Epic, and a deal could be finalized as early as this month, the people said. No final decision has been made on the deal and Byju’s could opt to keep the assets for longer, the people said.

Representatives for Byju’s, Moelis and Joffre, a tech-focused buyout firm started by Chinese dealmakers, declined to comment. A representative for Duolingo didn’t respond to a request for comment.

India’s online education pioneer bought Epic for $500 million in 2021 as part of its global expansion. The US firm, founded about a decade ago, offers a collection of more than 40,000 books on its online platform, according to its website.

Byju’s, whose formal name is Think & Learn Pvt, has been trying to shave costs to reduce losses after a pandemic-era boom in online learning fizzled out. Once India’s most valuable tech startup, it’s now locked in a legal battle with creditors and is grappling with regulatory scrutiny over its accounts. Over the weekend, Byju’s first results in years revealed that losses at its parent company narrowed only marginally amid a pandemic-era boom in business.Joffre’s founding partners include James Lu, a former executive at Chinese search engine Baidu Inc., according to his LinkedIn profile. He was part of the investor group that bought gay-dating app Grindr from Chinese internet company Kunlun Tech Co. in 2020. Other founders include entrepreneurs and experienced executives in technology and finance who have held senior positions at Inc., Warburg Pincus LLC and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to its website.

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