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Court halts Byju’s second rights issue as $200M fundraise falters

Court Halts Byjus Second Rights Issue As 200m Fundraise Falters

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Byju’s is having a hard time raising the full $200 million from its rights issues that its founder had previously claimed was oversubscribed, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. And now, India’s National Company Law Tribunal has restrained the company from proceeding with its second rights issue amid allegations of oppression and mismanagement by its shareholders.

The Tribunal on Thursday also ordered the company to maintain status quo on its existing shareholdings until a petition filed by two of its investors, General Atlantic and Sofina, had been dealt with. Rights issues allow companies to raise capital by giving shareholders the opportunity to purchase additional shares at a discount, in proportion to their current stake.

Byju’s had launched its first rights issue in late January, but a court order directed the company to not tap the funds it had raised through that rights issue after many of its investors opposed the fundraise. The Bengaluru-headquartered startup had launched the fundraise after struggling to raise cash amid allegations of lapses in corporate governance, and that rights issue pretty much demolished its valuation to about $25 million, which is an astonishing decline from the $22 billion price tag the startup once enjoyed.

The startup recently sought to raise money again from another rights issue as it scrambled to pay employees and continue operations, but that effort has now been stalled.

Thursday’s court order is the latest episode in the spectacular collapse of Byju’s, once the world’s most valuable edtech startup. It’s backed by some of the world’s most influential investors, including BlackRock, Prosus, Peak XV, UBS, Bond, Sands Capital, Verlinvest, Tencent, Canada Pension Plan, Tiger Global, and World Bank’s IFC.

Byju’s fortunes started fading some time ago — along with the post-pandemic tailwinds that spurred it to its heights — but things started heading seriously downhill last year, when Prosus, Peak XV and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative resigned from the company’s board, citing problems with its governance practices, and Deloitte dropped the startup’s account. Prosus had said that Byju’s did not “evolve sufficiently for a company of that scale,” and the Indian firm “disregarded advice and recommendations” from its backers. The investors have sought to remove the company’s founder and chief executive, Byju Raveendran, from the firm.

Some investors, including Prosus and Peak XV, also accused Byju’s of violating an earlier court order and allotting shares to some shareholders despite their pending case. Byju’s has been directed to provide details of the allotment and keep all the funds raised in a separate escrow account.

TechCrunch couldn’t determine exactly how much Byju’s ended up raising in the first rights issue. A Byju’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

“Our rights issue is fully subscribed and my gratitude to my shareholders remains strong,” Raveendran wrote in a letter to shareholders in February. In the letter, he urged his estranged investors to give him another chance and participate in the rights issue.

“But my benchmark of success is the participation of all shareholders in the rights issue. We have built this company together and I want us all to participate in this renewed mission. Your initial investment laid the foundation for our journey and this rights issue will help preserve and build greater value for all shareholders.”

The court order comes after BlackRock wrote off its investment in Byju’s, giving the Indian firm an implied valuation of zero.

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