What’s going on?
Payments giant Wise – formerly known as TransferWise – sent its shares out onto the stock market on Wednesday in the UK’s biggest “direct listing” yet.
What does this mean?
Eschewing the investment banks (and the hefty fees) involved in an initial public offering (IPO), Wise’s early investors and employees instead sent around 25% of their existing shares straight to the trading floor. One major drawback of direct listings is that companies can’t generally pocket cash from selling new shares at the same time – but that was no biggie for Wise. The London-based fintech firm, which began helping people transfer money overseas for less back in 2010, has been profitable since 2017. What’s more, Wise’s shares “went public” at a price which values the entire company at almost $11 billion – up from $5 billion less than a year ago (tweet this).
Why should I care?
The bigger picture: Is it Wise to hope?
Spotify’s 2018 direct listing sparked a copycat craze in the US, and some analysts reckon Wise’s groundbreaking move could mean the same for the UK – Europe’s busiest stock market. Still, that may rely on investors getting on board with Wise’s “dual-class” share structure. A favorite of tech firms, this gives early shareholders (including bosses) much more power than later investors. While dual-class companies are currently barred from the top tier of the UK market – and the FTSE 100 share index – Britain’s financial authorities are considering a shakeup. But if Wise’s newly public shares follow Deliveroo’s second-class stock south, hopes for similar future listings could evaporate.
For markets: Keeping clever company.
Wise’s enterprise value is now approximately 48x its estimated earnings (before a few adjustments) in 2023 – even higher than the 45x average for rivals PayPal, Square, and Adyen. Still, fintech stocks are all the rage at the moment, and Wise could justify that valuation if it continues to grow earnings faster than the others.