GoTo president credits Indonesia’s ‘humming’ economy for helping shares escape the worst of the tech rout

GoTo Group, the Indonesian e-commerce juggernaut that braved a choppy IPO market to debut on Indonesia’s stock exchange earlier this year, says it plans to wait and see before launching a second listing overseas.

“Given where markets are, and the volatility, I think we’re waiting for more stable and supportive markets before we consider doing that secondary listing outside of the [Indonesia Stock Exchange],” said Patrick Cao, GoTo’s group president, during the Spark Founders Summit organized by Huawei Technologies, in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday.

GoTo debuted on Jakarta’s stock market on April 11, in a listing that raised $1.1 billion. Shares climbed more than 13% on opening day, giving the company a market capitalization equivalent to about $30 billion. The company gave away thousands shares to its 600,000 drivers in advance of its trading debut. In its prospectus, the Indonesian startup said it would also launch a secondary listing in a foreign stock market by the end of 2023, mentioning options like the New York Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, among others. 

GoTo’s shares have struggled since its debut, falling about 30.3% since April. Yet the company is handling the tech rout better than its two main Southeast Asian rivals. 

Shares in Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab, which raised $4.5 billion in its December debut on the NASDAQ, valuing the company $37 billion, have slumped 62.6% since the start of 2022. Shares in SEA, a Singapore-based digital entertainment company that has expanded into e-commerce and digital payments and trades on the New York Stock Exchange, have plunged 75.4% over the same period. SEA remains Southeast Asia’s most valuable company with a current market capitalization of about $25 billion, compared to about $20 billion for GoTo, and $10 billion for Grab.

GoTo is the product of the May 2021 merger of ride-hailing firm GoJek and e-commerce platform Tokopedia. Cao, who was president of Tokopedia before the merger, became president of the newly-formed GoTo, while Andre Soelistyo, GoJek’s founder, became CEO.

‘The economy is humming’

Cao pointed to Indonesia’s strengths as a market for GoTo’s resilience amid global economic uncertainty. “Not only are commodity prices doing well, but the government’s move to go more downstream to support more high-tech areas like batteries has really created a lot of value,” Cao said.

Indonesia has the world’s largest reserves of nickel, a critical metal for electric vehicle batteries. Indonesian president Joko Widodo banned exports of unprocessed nickel to encourage investment in domestic nickel processing and electric vehicle manufacturing. Widodo even took a detour during an official visit to the U.S. to lobby Elon Musk in-person to get Tesla to invest more in Indonesia.

Cao said the government’s efforts have “created a nice virtuous circle within Indonesia itself, in terms of GDP growth and consumption growth.” In September, the Asian Development Bank increased its 2022 GDP growth forecast for Indonesia, from 5.0% to 5.4%. The bank forecasts 4.3% GDP growth for the year across Asia.

GoTo’s president also pointed to the strength of Indonesia’s stock market: the Jakarta Composite Index is up 7.8% for the year, making it one of the few Asian—if not globalstock markets in positive territory in 2022. 

Indonesia, with 274 million people, accounts for nearly half the population of Southeast Asia, and generates nearly 60% of the region’s GDP. GoTo counts on Indonesia for more than 95% of its revenues.

And Cao argued the Indonesian economy has plenty of room for further growth. He noted that while the Indonesian economy used to be centered around the main island of Java, which houses the country’s capital of Jakarta, growth is now spreading across Indonesia’s many islands. “The economy is humming” across the country, Cao said. “That means the entire nation is growing in a very healthy way.”

Cao said that there are still gaps in the country’s economy that GoTo could fill, particularly in financial services. He estimated that “about 48%” of Indonesia’s population is unbanked, while only about 6% of Indonesian consumers have credit cards. “There’s so much work to be done,” Cao said.

More broadly, Cao argued that Southeast Asia featured high smartphone use, but low penetration of e-commerce and digital finance, making it a good market for anyone seeking to launch a startup. 

“There’s just so much opportunity,” he said. 

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