Europe’s fintech sector is fiercely competitive, with privately-held start-ups worth tens of billions of dollars vying to steal market share from incumbent banks.
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LONDON — Nium, a $2 billion digital payments start-up based out of Singapore, has big plans for its European business.
The company, whose software helps businesses manage flows of money across borders, is in talks to make an acquisition worth up to $400 million to drive an expansion in the continent, CEO and co-founder Prajit Nanu told CNBC.
“Europe is a very big business for us,” Nanu, who is now based in San Francisco, said in an interview in London. The firm is in discussions to buy an enterprise-focused payments venture worth “anything between $20 million to $400 million,” he added.
Out of its 1,000-person global workforce, Nium currently has about 150 employees based in Europe, and plans to hire an additional 100 over the next 12 months, Nanu said.
The company is on track to generate around $150 million in annual global revenues this year, with between $80 million and $90 million of sales coming from Europe, according to Nium’s CEO.
It’s a relatively little-known name in the world of fintech, but Nium is growing fast. The company recently reached a $2 billion valuation and has attracted some notable investors, including Visa and Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek.
The start-up competes with both banking incumbents as well as other fintech firms, like Britain’s Wise and Australia’s Airwallex. It counts fellow fintechs Currencycloud — which was bought by Visa last year — and Transfergo as clients.
Europe’s fintech sector is fiercely competitive, with privately-held start-ups worth tens of billions of dollars vying to steal market share from incumbent banks. Klarna, the buy now, pay later fintech, was last valued at $46 billion, while payment firms Checkout.com and Revolut are now worth $40 billion and $33 billion, respectively.
But Nium’s CEO is betting there’s plenty of room for start-ups like his, which focuses on handling payments for businesses rather than consumers.
Nium’s European division accelerated over the past year, thanks in part to the acquisition of Ixaris, a London-based firm that issues virtual payment cards for the travel industry. The deal was fortunately timed, Nanu says.
“We had the audacity to buy a travel payment company before vaccines even became a thing,” he said, adding Nium gave Ixaris a term sheet as far back as January 2021. The first Covid-19 shot was administered in the U.K. in December 2020.
When deal talks began, Ixaris was processing £15 million ($18.8 million) in transaction volume and making £100,000 in revenue, Nanu said. Fast forward to March 2022 and the company is now doing £400 million in volume and just under £6 million of revenue, he added.