|From: Sr K||3/17/2020 8:33:59 PM|
Fintechs Get Clearer Rules on Banking Licenses Under FDIC Plan
Proposal would impose new oversight on owners of industrial loan companies
WASHINGTON—Financial-technology firms and other businesses seeking to offer banking services will have a clearer set of rules to follow under a proposal by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The FDIC’s framework would impose new oversight on the owners of so-called industrial loan companies, which enjoy many of the same benefits as traditional banks but aren’t owned by a federally-supervised bank holding company.
The proposal would require that the parent provide capital and liquidity support to an industrial bank in an emergency. It also seeks to establish “appropriate” recordkeeping and reporting requirements, according to the FDIC.
“This proposal would ensure that parent companies serve as a source of strength for their industrial bank subsidiaries,” FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams said in a written statement.
“By codifying these requirements, the proposal would enhance transparency and provide important protections for the Deposit Insurance Fund,” she said.
The agency will seek public comment on the proposed rule before voting on it in coming months.
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|To: Sr K who wrote (125)||3/18/2020 9:38:03 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Square gets conditional approval for industrial loan charter |
Published: March 18, 2020 at 5:09 p.m. ET
By Emily Bary
Square Inc. SQ, -11.69% announced late Wednesday that it had received conditional approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to conduct deposit insurance related to an Industrial Loan Company (ILC) banking charter. The company also received approval from the Utah Department of Financial Institutions for this purpose. The approval grants Square the ability to operate a bank, Square Financial Services, that will be an independent direct subsidiary of the company. Its main objective will be to provide small-business loans for Square's Capital lending business and to offer deposit products. The bank is expected to launch in 2021. The company expects that Square Financial Services will sell loans to third-party investors, which will limit the exposure of these activities on Square's balance sheet. The stock was up 1% in after-hours trading Wednesday after falling 11.7% in regular trading. The shares have dropped 52% over the past month compared with a 29% decline for the S&P 500 SPX, -5.18% over that span.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||6/17/2020 8:33:04 AM|
|Digital bank Current sees ‘insane’ growth during pandemic as essential workers sign up for account|
Published Wed, Jun 17 20207:37 AM EDT
Updated 6 min ago
H ugh Son @hugh_son
Digital banks like Chime and Square’s Cash App have added millions of users by offering streamlined, mobile-first accounts without the pesky fees associated with brick-and-mortar banks.
- Current, founded in 2015 by former Wall Street trader Stuart Sopp, has seen customer growth surge during the coronavirus pandemic, adding more than 100,000 users in April and May. The company recently exceeded 1 million active accounts and expects to double in size before the end of this year, Sopp said.
- Current and its ilk have grown by exploiting the fact that, for people living check to check, accounts from big banks can be a bad deal: Lower wage earners often struggle to maintain the required minimum balances or get hit with overdraft fees.
- Fully 50% of the bank’s user base are Black, Sopp said, citing an internal estimate based on user photos and commercial data. The average age of Current customers is 27, and they are clustered in cities including Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and Brooklyn, he said.
- The company’s blistering expansion — Sopp estimates that annualized customer growth is now at 1,300% — has attracted a new investment from Foundation Capital, a Palo-Alto based venture capital firm.
To that list of disruptors, add the New York-based start-up Current.
Current, founded in 2015 by former Wall Street trader Stuart Sopp, has offered fee-free mobile checking accounts since the start of last year. It’s seen customer growth surge during the coronavirus pandemic, adding more than 100,000 users a month in April and May, Sopp said in a telephone interview. The company recently exceeded 1 million active accounts and expects to double in size before the end of this year, he said.
That’s because Current has taken off with the essential workers who “have kept this country going” during the pandemic, Sopp said.
“Everyone who was tagged as an essential worker happens to fit our profile, just by dumb luck,” he added. “They work at Walmart or Amazon, they’re Door Dash-ers, Instacart-ers, Uber and Lyft drivers, UPS workers, nurses or military. Our growth in the last two months has been insane.”
The pandemic has acted like an accelerant to an existing trend: The steady migration of most everyday banking activities to mobile apps and online portals. That has boosted digital adoption for both huge institutions like Bank of America to newcomers including Current. But Current and its ilk have grown by exploiting the fact that, for people living check to check, accounts from big banks can be a bad deal: Lower wage earners often struggle to maintain the required minimum balances or get hit with overdraft fees.
“They’ve been sort of ostracized by the banks because they don’t have much in deposits,” Sopp said.
Stuart Sopp, CEO of Current
The company’s business model — essentially, a technology layer on top of an account that’s actually from a separate FDIC-backed institution — allows it to focus on making money from debit transactions and a premium subscription. Most traditional banks require customers to keep thousands of dollars in balances to avoid maintenance fees.
Like some of its fintech brethren, Current gives users access to their paychecks up to two days faster than traditional accounts, up to $100 in free overdrafts and free access to thousands of ATMs. These features have proven to be a hit with lower-wage earners.
“We are lowering the barriers to financial inclusion,” Sopp said. “We’re focusing on wealth inequality but not explicitly saying we’re doing it. It should just be good business.”
Fully 50% of the bank’s user base are Black, Sopp said, citing an internal estimate based on user photos and commercial data. The average age of Current customers is 27, and they are clustered in cities including Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and Brooklyn, he said. Users spend about $1,100 per month, almost entirely on necessities like groceries, he added.
The company’s blistering expansion — Sopp estimates that annualized customer growth is now at 1,300% — has attracted a new investment from Foundation Capital, a Palo-Alto based venture capital firm. While Sopp wouldn’t disclose the size of the stake, Foundation partner Angus Davis is joining Current’s board, he said.
“With a third of the U.S. population living paycheck to paycheck, Current has a large opportunity in front of it,” Davis said in a statement.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||6/17/2020 9:20:28 AM|
|Fintech app Robinhood is driving a retail trading renaissance during the stock market’s wild ride|
Published Wed, Jun 17 20208:30 AM EDT
Updated 27 min ago
Kate Rooney @Kr00ney
-- Retail stock trading app Robinhood has grown from 1 million to 10 million users since 2016.
-- The start-up, launched in 2013 with a free-trading model, has been mimicked by incumbent brokerage firms including Charles Schwab, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade.
-- Retail brokers are seeing record new account openings this year despite the pandemic.
-- In May, Robinhood brought in $280 million of fresh capital, boosting its valuation to $8.3 billion, even after its trading technology stumbled badly during the coronavirus crash.
-- Robinhood snared a spot on CNBC’s 2020 Disruptor 50 list, released Tuesday.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
For a trading firm, there are few bigger blunders than clients being unable to move money when markets hit historic highs.
Yet that’s exactly what happened at start-up brokerage firm Robinhood earlier this year. The aftermath? A surge in new users, record trading activity and a new round of venture capital funding.
Despite its missteps, the company has quickly ushered in 10 million users, most of whom are millennials and new entrants to the stock market. Robinhood’s free-trading model kicked off a wave of fee-slashing that turned the brokerage industry on its head.
“We’ve seen a major paradigm shift for broader financial services,” Robinhood co-CEO Baiju Bhatt told CNBC in a phone interview. “People that previously didn’t feel like the markets were for them are for the first time feeling a sense of inclusivity.”
The company, which snared the No. 46 spot on CNBC’s 2020 Disruptor 50 list, released Tuesday, was founded by Bhatt and co-CEO Vlad Tenev in 2013. The company was named after the outlaw from English folklore, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Robinhood, mostly used by millennials to trade stocks and cryptocurrency, has grown from its 1 million subscribers in 2016 and 6 million accounts in October of 2018. More than half of Robinhood customers are opening their first brokerage account, and the median customer age is 31 years old, according to the company.
Retail trading has taken off in 2020 amid the coronavirus downturn that many young traders saw as an entry point into the world of investing. Major brokerage firms saw record new accounts in the first quarter. Fidelity, for example, saw a record 1.2 million accounts open in the first few months of the year.
“New investors who sense a generational-buying moment but do not have much background in the equity space,” Citi chief U.S. equity strategist Tobias Levkovich said in a note to clients in May. “We have heard anecdotally about younger individuals with less market experience viewing the March plunge as a unique time to start portfolios and often crowding into the tech arena, purchasing the stocks whose services or products they know and use.”
The influx of young, inexperienced traders is benefiting Robinhood. In March the start-up said it saw three times its average customer trading volume compared to 2019. That uptick continued through April and into May, Bhatt said.
Robinhood users recently told CNBC they were using Covid-19 stimulus checks to invest in beaten-up stocks, and generally, for the first time in their lives, they are playing the market. Lequon Godbolt, who bought into airline stocks, told CNBC, “I just started taking it seriously about two months ago.”
Alongside that jump in activity after the March lows for the stock market, the trading app experienced technical issues that kept it offline for nearly two full trading days. As a result, Robinhood clients missed out on the biggest one-day point gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in history.
Robinhood has since apologized to customers, claiming it has strengthened its infrastructure. The company’s co-CEOs said it was due to “historic market conditions” in March, as well as record trading volume and account sign-ups — all of which caused “stress” on the company’s infrastructure. Following the outages, some on social media threatened to pull funds from the platform and multiple threatened to sue.
In the months following those blunders, Robinhood’s investors upped their equity positions in the trading start-up. In May, Robinhood announced a $280 million Series F round led by existing investor Sequoia Capital. The company, now valued at $8.3 billion, has also attracted capital from NEA, Ribbit Capital, Kleiner Perkins, rapper Nas and Alphabet’s corporate venture arm GV, among dozens of others, according to PitchBook.
Race to zero fees
In the past year, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade, E-Trade Financial and Fidelity have all slashed commissions to zero. Its success has also coincided with a wave of consolidation in the retail brokerage space, with Schwab acquiring TD Ameritrade and Morgan Stanley buying E-Trade. Now that the incumbents offer the same options as Robinhood, analysts forecast more pressure for Robinhood to expand beyond stock trading.
The company already has looked to broaden its appeal beyond stocks. It launched a cash-management account with a debit card and ATM network, which got off to a rough start after mislabeling the product as a debit account. Technically, it wasn’t, and the announcement caught the attention of financial regulators. Robinhood scrapped the product and relaunched 10 months later.
Despite the stumbles, the company continues to plow ahead to become a one-stop-shop financial app on consumers’ phones. Bhatt likened the future of Robinhood to a consumers’ choice of iPhone map: They will likely keep Google Maps, or Apple Maps on their home screen, not five or six competing options.
“It’s really more convenient for people to have one app on their phone that is the go-to for that activity. We see an opportunity as we add more services and features to Robinhood to really be on that one app for all customers’ finances,” he said.
Robinhood has launched in the U.K., and more global expansion is also on the company’s road map, he said. An IPO is a part of the end goal, too. Letting its users buy shares of Robinhood is something the company “eventually wants to offer,” Bhatt said. But he wouldn’t say when.
“As we continue to grow, it’s something that we’re naturally going to look at,” Bhatt said.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||6/17/2020 11:29:59 AM|
|How Kabbage saved its small business lending operation in the middle of the pandemic|
Published Wed, Jun 17 202011:03 AM EDT
Updated 7 min ago
Ari Levy @levynews
-- Kabbage had to furlough employees in March and pause its traditional lending operation after the coronavirus forced small businesses across the country to indefinitely close.
-- The company turned its attention to the government’s Paycheck Protection Program and has processed more than 130,000 such loans, mostly to businesses with five or fewer employees.
-- “Ten years ago there’s zero chance that most businesses we serve would’ve gotten funding,” said Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein.Kabbage snared a spot on CNBC’s 2020 Disruptor 50 list, revealed Tuesday.
Rob Frohwein, CEO of Kabbage
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
In late March, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing mom-and-pop shops across the country to shut down indefinitely, small business lender Kabbage furloughed a “significant number” of employees and paused its lending operation, anticipating the contraction in its customer base.
But CEO Rob Frohwein, who co-founded the Atlanta-based company during the previous financial crisis in 2009, had no intention of sitting back and waiting for shelter-in-place orders to expire. Rather, he saw an opening for Kabbage to put its technology, over a decade in the making, to use on a much bigger stage.
Frohwein knew that massive numbers of restaurants, boutique hotels, retailers and barber shops would immediately need checks from the government to avoid having to permanently shut their doors. So the CEO and his team, all working from their homes mostly in the Atlanta area, rapidly stood up partnerships with small banks that would need the help of automation to quickly process stimulus applications for so many of their customers.
Kabbage wasn’t built with a public health crisis in mind, but the combination of its algorithmic underwriting and easy-to-use interfaces is exactly what was needed to do lending at the scale now required.
In April the Treasury Department approved nonbank fintech companies like Kabbage to participate directly in the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which allowed companies to apply for 10 weeks worth of funding to pay their employees and soften the blow caused by the pandemic.
Kabbage has now provided PPP funding to over 130,000 businesses, with a median loan size of about $29,000, compared to the SBA’s total average of $113,000. More than 80% of recipients have five employees or fewer, and many are so small that they don’t have established relationships with banks.
Kabbage claims that more than 90% of the applications they processed were automated, meaning the borrower didn’t have to communicate with anyone on Frohwein’s team, and many applicants receive SBA approval the same day.
On Tuesday, Kabbage launched a streamlined PPP application for Uber drivers and delivery people using Uber to make it easier for them to apply for federal-relief funding.
‘Fintech’s shining moment’
“This has been fintech’s shining moment,” said Frohwein. “Ten years ago there’s zero chance that most businesses we serve would’ve gotten funding. The banks would’ve only worked with much larger small businesses out there.”
Kabbage landed the 24th spot on CNBC’s 2020 Disruptor 50 list, revealed Tuesday. Because of its involvement in the PPP program, Kabbage is doling out significantly more money than in the past and often in much smaller increments.
Frohwein said the company had previously projected $3.6 billion in originations this year but has already exceeded that amount, albeit with a very different kind of loan. In more normal times, Kabbage would underwrite a loan, charging a rate that accounts for the risk associated with a particular small business and its industry. The PPP loans, by contrast, are virtually risk-free for Kabbage, since they’re backed by the government. Each brings with it a low fee paid to the lender.
A look ahead
Frohwein has difficulty looking far into the future at this point because the economy is in such a vulnerable state. The company entered the crisis well-capitalized and with a relatively diverse revenue base, having expanded into payment processing and by licensing its technology to big banks, which use the platform to reach a wider swath of customers. Frohwein said he’s hired back about one-third of the employees who were furloughed or laid off in March.
Still, the financial impact of Covid-19 is having an outsized impact on small businesses, Kabbage’s sweet spot. With infection rates still spiking in many states and no cure or vaccine on the immediate horizon, there’s more pain coming to its customer base.
“I don’t think the PPP is a panacea for this crisis,” he said. “There’s going to have to be more stimulus behind this or unfortunately we’re going to see huge number of small business not be able to stay in business.”
Frohwein said Kabbage is doing what it can to help keep existing customers afloat through deferrals and skipped loan payments. Knowing that some portion of them have already gone away or will eventually, he’s hoping the new relationships Kabbage has established in the last few months through PPP will pay off down the road.
“The gratitude we’ve received from customers we helped is kind of overwhelming,” Frohwein said. “We think a large number will work with us on a go-forward basis.”
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|From: Sr K||6/18/2020 10:43:51 AM|
Ant Financial Services Group’s flagship money-market fund, which has drawn investments from more than a third of China’s population, has seen a significant increase in redemptions over the past month.
Investors Pull Cash From China’s Money-Market Behemoth as Yields Tumble
Beijing’s coronavirus-fighting measures push the yield of Ant Financial’s flagship fund to a record low
HONG KONG—China’s biggest money-market fund is experiencing a pickup in withdrawals following a slide in yields, as people take out more cash to spend and invest in other products with higher returns.
Ant Financial Services Group’sflagship money-market fund, which has drawn investments from more than a third of China’s population, has seen a significant increase in redemptions over the past month, according to people familiar with the matter. One of the world’s largest mutual funds, the seven-year-old Tianhong Yu’e Bao fund had 1.26 trillion yuan ($178 billion) in assets under management at the end of March, the most recent data available.
In early June, the fund’s seven-day annualized yield fell below China’s official one-year bank-deposit rate for the first time since June 2013, according to Wind, a data provider. Tianhong Yu’e Bao’s yield was recently 1.4%, versus the 1.5% benchmark deposit rate.
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|From: Sr K||6/25/2020 3:37:05 PM|
Wirecard Files for Insolvency After Revealing Accounting Hole
Shares crash 70%, deepening the decline in the German fintech company’s market value over the past week
Battered German fintech company Wirecard AG has filed for insolvency proceedings, days after revealing that more than $2 billion in cash missing from its balance sheet probably didn’t exist.
The move is the latest in a startlingly swift unwind for a company that until recently was a shining star in Europe’s tech scene. Wirecard is the first insolvent company in the DAX 30, Germany’s premier stock-market index.
Shares in Wirecard crashed 70% after the announcement Thursday, meaning the company’s market value has all but evaporated to less than €500 million from almost €13 billion ($14.5 billion) a week ago. The collapse began on June 18, when Wirecard said its auditors couldn’t confirm the existence of €1.9 billion meant to be held in trust accounts. The company later said the money probably didn’t exist.
For years, Wirecard’s shares skyrocketed under the leadership of former Chief Executive Markus Braun, who touted the company as a moneymaking machine whose payments-processing business would be essential for global commerce. While the shares rose, investors who bet against Wirecard’s stock and the media repeatedly raised red flags about the company’s finances. German authorities did little to check on the accusations.
Rest to the end
Ferdinand Lavin, deputy director and spokesman of the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation, said he had information Mr. Marsalek had been in the country, but had no hard proof yet. “We are investigating the Wirecard fraud,” he added.
Mr. Marsalek couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Wirecard said Thursday that it is also evaluating whether insolvency applications have to be filed for its subsidiaries. One of them, Wirecard Bank, which had €1.7 billion in deposits, isn’t part of the proceedings. BaFin has appointed a special representative to handle the bank, the company added.
Wirecard’s unraveling is the most prominent in the digital-payments space, which exploded along with online shopping and gambling. The industry has created a number of profitable businesses that mostly sit in the background of billions of transactions.
Wirecard’s fall would represent one of the biggest corporate scandals in Europe since the collapse of Portuguese lender Banco Espírito Santo amid allegations of fraud in 2014.
The problems with Wirecard’s books may stretch back years. The company withdrew its results for 2019 and the first quarter of 2020, and warned that its financial results for previous years could also be affected.
The likely fictitious €1.9 billion is equivalent to all the net income Wirecard has reported over more than a decade.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||7/9/2020 4:40:03 PM|
|Fintech disruptor SoFi wants to become a national bank — again|
Published Thu, Jul 9 20204:23 PM EDT
Updated 7 Min Ago
Riley de León @RileyCNBC
-- SoFi has filed an application for a national bank charter, which would allow it to accept deposits and lend money without traditional bank partners.
-- The fintech company previously applied for a bank license in June 2017 with the FDIC.
-- Current CEO Anthony Noto said in a company-wide email to employees that it is a critical stage in our development.
Anthony Noto, CEO of SoFi
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Fintech company SoFi has filed an application for a national bank charter with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), according to a report from Business Insider citing a company-wide email it reviewed. In that email, CEO Anthony Noto said that the personal finance start-up “thought long and hard about embarking on this path, and are proud of what we have accomplished in the last 2+ years to position ourselves to take this next critical strategic step in our development.”
If granted, the move would allow SoFi, which ranked No. 8 on the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 list, to operate under one set of federal regulations, rather than 50 different state regulations. In addition to unifying regulatory operations, the charter would allow SoFi to lend money and accept deposits independent of the partner banks it currently works with, as well as offer more competitive interest rates for its suite of loans, checking and savings offerings.
The company previously applied in 2017 for a bank license in Utah with the FDIC under co-founder and former CEO Mike Cagney, who resigned later that year amid sexual harassment allegations made by two former SoFi employees. Following the departure of Cagney and other senior executives, the company withdrew its application later that year.
A SoFi spokeswoman confirmed to CNBC it has formally submitted an application to the OCC for a proposed de novo national bank, SoFi Bank, National Association.
The company chose the “de novo” path because it will allow SoFi to take insured consumer deposits. It is the first step in a process that, upon approval, would then be reviewed and need approval from the FDIC and Fed as well.
“We firmly believe that by pursuing a national bank charter, we will be able to help even more people get their money right with enhanced value and more products and services,” Noto said in a statement emailed to CNBC.
Just last year, Robinhood, another growing fintech company, sought to become a federally insured bank before voluntarily pulling back its charter application, highlighting tech’s ongoing struggle to disrupt the banking industry. However, the coronavirus pandemic has helped usher in a new wave of investors through online brokerages including Robinhood, as well as a wave of consolidation in the sector involving competitors TD Ameritrade and E-Trade, now part of Charles Schwab and Morgan Stanley, respectively.
SoFi has seen the number of its investor accounts double in 2020, Noto previously told CNBC. Robinhood, which offers a free basic stock trading account via its app, has seen accounts grow from one million to 10 million since 2016. It ranked No. 46 on this year’s Disruptor list.
In April, SoFi announced plans to acquire payments software company Galileo, which powers platforms like Robinhood and Chime. The move was a nod to comments that Noto made last November about the imminence of industry consolidation.
“We assumed there’s going to be a fair amount of consolidation” in the industry, he told CNBC’s Jim Cramer said in a “ Mad Money” interview. “The financial services industry really hasn’t had the type of innovation that you’ve seen in e-commerce, as you’ve seen in online travel.”
The company claims to have 1 million members and has made $45 billion in loans to date. SoFi has raised $2.3 billion in funding and is valued at around $4.8 billion.
SoFi is a six-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company.
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|From: Sr K||7/20/2020 10:34:39 PM|
Jack Ma’s Ant Group Plans Dual IPOs in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bypassing New York
The Chinese technology and financial-services giant’s combined offering could be one of the largest in history
HONG KONG—Ant Group Co., the Chinese technology and financial-services giant that owns popular mobile-payments network Alipay, said it is planning initial public offerings in Hong Kong and Shanghai, bypassing New York as it seeks to accelerate its growth in China and abroad.
The Hangzhou-based company, which was founded by billionaire Jack Ma and is one of the world’s most valuable startups, said it is targeting concurrent listings on China’s year-old, Nasdaq-like STAR market for homegrown technology companies and Hong Kong’s stock exchange.
Ant is moving to list closer to home while tensions flare between the U.S. and China, including threats of sanctions on Chinese officials and delisting Chinese firms from U.S. stock exchanges. Back in 2014, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA 3.10% —from which Ant’s flagship Alipay business was spun out of—chose New York as its listing venue and raised $25 billion. It was the world’s largest IPO until Saudi Aramco’s listing last year.
Ant didn’t give a time frame for its IPOs or a fundraising target, but a person familiar with the matter said the company is aiming for a market valuation exceeding $200 billion and hoping to list later this year. The combined stock offering could be one of the largest in history, as companies generally sell at least 10% to 15% of their shares when they go public.
Ant was last valued at $150 billion in a private fundraising round in mid-2018 that raised around $14 billion from a combination of domestic and international investors.
Since then, several holders of Ant’s shares, including funds managed by BlackRock Inc., have marked up the value of their investments, according to regulatory filings.
Ant said going public will help it “accelerate its goal of digitizing the service industry in China,” position the company to expand with partners globally and enable it to invest further in technology and innovation.
Its executive chairman Eric Jing also said the listing would also help the development of Shanghai’s STAR market as well as the stock exchange of Hong Kong by drawing global investors to companies listed on those bourses. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to play a part in this development,” he added.
“Ant Group is an important member of the Alibaba digital economy and we believe Ant’s listing plan will be beneficial to its future growth, creating value for its users, partners and shareholders,” Alibaba said in a statement on Monday. The company currently owns 33% of Ant’s shares.
Alipay, which grew out of a digital payments system on Alibaba’s e-commerce websites, now has more than 900 million active users in China who use its mobile app for everything from online investing to paying for groceries and utility bills.
Ant used to be known as Ant Financial Services Group before it changed its name last month. It said it wanted to be known simply as Ant Group, to reflect a shift in its strategy toward providing technology to financial institutions and other businesses.
The company also has large small-business and consumer lending units and operates a private credit-scoring business. It manages one of the world’s largest money-market mutual funds, which is sold along with dozens of other mutual funds on a popular investment platform integrated with its Alipay mobile app.
Outside of China, Ant has investments in mobile payments startups in other countries, including India’s Paytm, and payment processing tie-ups with overseas banks and retailers. Ant in 2017 tried to buy U.S. money-transfer company MoneyGram International Inc. for $1.2 billion, but the deal was scuttled by a U.S. national-security panel.
Hao Hong, a managing director and head of research at Bocom International in Hong Kong, said Ant’s plan to list in the city will make it easier for international investors to profit from selling their stakes in the company. He said Ant could fetch a higher valuation on mainland China’s A-share market, given a historical gap in valuations on stocks listed on both bourses. Virtually all IPOs on China’s fledgling STAR market, which is also known as the Science and Technology Innovation Board, have also surged upon listing.
“Now may be the best time for Ant to go public as investors’ enthusiasm has been the highest since 2015,” said Mr. Hong, adding that waiting longer could subject the company to higher geopolitical risk as tensions between the U.S. and China rise.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||8/5/2020 2:16:02 PM|
|Square surges after reporting 64% jump in revenue, more customers using Cash App|
PUBLISHED TUE, AUG 4 20209:05 PM EDT
UPDATED WED, AUG 5 202012:52 AM EDT
Kate Rooney @KR00NEY
-- Square reported numbers a day earlier than expected after a media outlet leaked them.
-- The company reported adjusted EPS of $0.18 and $1.92 billion in net revenue.
-- Shares rose after hours on the earnings beat.
Shares of Square soared on Tuesday evening after posting better-than-expected quarterly results and strong growth in its consumer payments app.
The San Francisco-based company reported $1.92 billion in net revenue for the second quarter — a 64% year-over-year jump. Adjusted earnings per share came in at 18 cents, far better than the 5 cent loss analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected. Square’s net loss for the quarter was $11 million on a GAAP basis.
The stock jumped as much as 11% in after-hours trading, and has more than doubled this year as consumers flock to digital payments during the pandemic.
Its peer-to-peer Cash App, a competitor to PayPal’s Venmo, helped drive Square’s performance in the second quarter. Gross profit for the app rose 167% year-over-year to $281 million. Stored funds, or the amount of money customers keep on the app, jumped 86% from the prior quarter. The app had 30 million users as of June, up from 26 million at the end of last year, according to the company.
Cash App saw “meaningful uplift” from its users depositing government stimulus checks, CFO Amrita Ahuja said on a call with reporters Tuesday evening. Unemployment checks and tax refunds were also “tailwinds” that drove momentum in the Cash App. But there is still “uncertainty” around continued stimulus, these trends could “normalize” as a result, Ahuja said.
Despite the growth in Cash App, the company is heavily indexed to small businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants, through its in-person payment terminals. Many of those brick-and-mortar businesses were forced to shut their doors amid the pandemic. Gross profit for Square’s core seller business fell 9% year over year to $316 million. Square’s gross payments volume in the second quarter dropped 15% year-on-year.
The payment trends improved each month in the quarter as Covid-19–related shutdowns eased, and sellers adapted to contactless commerce, Square said.
A bulk of its sellers also moved online. Square’s payment volume from online channels was up 50% on-year, the company said. Online made up more than a quarter of seller payment volume, up from 14% a year ago.
Square’s lending arm, Square Capital, reported a significant drop in revenue after pausing most new loans for the quarter. Square Capital loan volume was instead driven by the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. Square said it facilitated PPP loans to more than 80,000 small businesses at approximately $873 million.
The company was due to report earnings after the bell Wednesday, but issued its numbers a day early after Bloomberg News reported the numbers ahead of time.
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