Remittances and the process of transferring money between people and organizations continues to be a huge business — worth some $613 billion globally, according to the latest figures from the World Bank. Now one of the bigger players in the world of B2B payments is itself changing hands. EQT — the investment and private equity firm — is buying Banking Circle from its previous majority owner Denmark’s Saxo Bank. A Banking Circle spokesperson told TechCrunch that the deal is valued at 2 billion Danish kroner, or $300 million.
Banking Circle’s co-founders and co-CEOs, Anders la Cour and Laust Bertelsen, will stay on and keep leading the company. EQT said that it plans to invest in the business to expand its product offerings and also help it move into more geographies. For now it will stay focused on B2B although it has also some sights on extending to consumer by way of its clients (in other words, B2B2C).
Banking Circle currently processes about €60 billion in payments annually for its clients, which include banks, card entities, and payment gateways that choose. It also has partnerships with a number of them and other banks to provide direct clearing access, making the payments faster and cheaper.
La Cour told TechCrunch that Banking Circle was essentially started under the wing of Saxo “because it’s very hard to build this without the help of a major partner.” Similarly, now that it has grown, it’s time to grow under a different structure with less ties to a single bank. “We see this as the right partner at the right time,” he said.
Banking Circle, he said, is ‘close to profitability’ Ebitda-wise. “We’ll keep investing heavily over the next couple of years.”
EQT says it plans to invest more in the company itself, but it’s also going to be leveraging its holdings in other businesses, as well as its own platform that includes “deep TMT sector expertise, local presence and EQT’s global network of Industrial Advisors,” it said.
“We are excited to partner with EQT,” said the co-CEOs in a joint statement. “With their support, we will be ideally positioned to continue innovating to serve our customers even better and continue our rapid growth.”
Saxo Bank’s payments division will also continue working with Banking Circle under its new owner.
“We are proud of Saxo Payments Banking Circle’s development and growth. As investor and incubator, we have supported the company with our core competencies in foreign exchange as well as developing and managing global fintech solutions,” said Kim Fournais, founder and CEO of Saxo Bank, in a statement. “It is not an easy task to build fintech solutions that create value and are long-term sustainable, but the company has done what few succeed in.”
EQT is a prolific investor in tech startups, as well as an acquirer of them. Just last week, its private equity division EQT Partners picked up the commercial Linux distributor Suse from Micro Focus for $2.5 billion. EQT Ventures, which is also partly financing this deal, describes itself as “half VC, half startup” and aims to put in more than just money to the companies that it backs or acquires.
In the case of Banking Circle, the company is tapping into a huge market that spans developed and emerging markets, as well as individuals and businesses, and taps into new tech innovations to speed up the process, make it less costly and more easy to do, and overall disrupt those who have traditionally been the gatekeepers for remittances — the Western Unions and large banks of the world.
It’s not the only one trying to do so, of course: the focus on using new digital rails for payments, and instruments like mobile phones and the internet to facilitate money transfers means that a number of startups have entered the fray. Some of the biggest that started out initially working with individuals, such as TransferWise, are now also building up substantial B2B businesses, too. This is one reason why EQT, with an eye on smaller startups, saw an opportunity to invest in, and supercharge, Banking Circle.
“We have followed Banking Circle for several years and are impressed by the company’s management team and unique innovation capabilities,” says Mads Ditlevsen, Responsible Deal Partner and Partner at EQT Partners, Investment Advisor to the majority owner EQT VIII. “Saxo Bank and Banking Circle’s management team have built an innovative, secure, and highly automated platform to make competitive, faster, and more transparent payments across borders. EQT is looking forward to supporting Banking Circle and the management team on their continued growth journey and in building a leading global payments infrastructure player.”
“We’re excited to partner with the entrepreneurs behind Banking Circle and support them in building the next generation infrastructure for cross-border payments,” says Hjalmar Winbladh, partner at EQT Partners who has a prolific record as a founder himself, having started VoIP company Rebtel, the picture messaging pioneer SendIt that was eventually acquired by Microsoft, and the social shopping and rewards app Wrapp. “Cross-border payments is a large and rapidly growing market dominated by traditional players. Banking Circle has built a disruptive solution with a strong value proposition. The customer feedback is excellent and the company’s traction is evident looking at the triple digit growth of the business.”
The deal is expected to close in Q4.