Fintech firm Wise valued above £8bn on stock market debut

Largest-ever flotation of a UK tech company boosts London’s hopes of attracting more listings

Last modified on Wed 7 Jul 2021 10.41 EDT

Wise has made a strong stock market debut giving the international payments firm a valuation of more than £8bn, making it the largest-ever listing of a UK tech company and buoying London’s hopes of attracting more technology companies looking to float.

Wise, the Shoreditch-based fintech firm formerly known as TransferWise, chose London for a rare direct listing, a form of flotation where a company begins trading publicly but does not issue new equity.

The company, whose goal is to revolutionise cross-border payments by stripping out the markups that banks and foreign exchange dealers add to transactions, began publicly trading at 800p in London on Wednesday, giving it a valuation of £8bn.

Within hours traders pushed the share price of the company, one of Britain’s best known fintech unicorns, up more than 3% to almost 830p. Wise also said that a separate share incentive scheme for its own customers had been oversubscribed and the 125,000 applicants would be scaled back to 100,000 by lottery.

At the company’s last funding round in July last year, investors valued the business at £5bn.

The market response will be a fillip for London, which has struggled to attract listings from fast-growing tech companies that have preferred US markets. In March, the capital’s reputation was tarnished by the disastrous flotation of takeaway food firm Deliveroo, which slumped more than a quarter on debut, leading market watchers to label it “Flopperoo”.

“Wise may have flown into the stock market blindfold given that by choosing a direct listing its share price wasn’t decided in advance,” said Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. “But the payments firm has had a smooth landing with its share price rising. The unruffled start to trading should help London’s efforts to maintain its reputation as a fintech hub.”

Wise was founded by Estonians Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus, who are now paper billionaires, in 2011. Prior to listing Kaarman owned an economic interest in Wise of 18.8% and Hinrikus 10.9%, worth £1.5bn and £872m respectively.

Existing shareholders were due to sell 24.2m shares, or 2.4% of the company, in a private three-hour auction process before the company going public.

The company now has 10 million customers and has been profitable for the last four years. Pre-tax profits doubled to £41m in 2020 as it increased its slice of the £54bn that was moved across borders last year.

The flotation is also expected to benefit Wise’s 2,000 employees, who own about 10% of the business.

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