SoftBank is making a huge investment into one of the providers of the kind of digital commerce infrastructure that underpins many of the companies that it backs. Today, Wirecard — a digital payments provider based out of Germany — announced that SoftBank Group is investing around €900 million ($1 billion) as part of a broader digital payments partnership, to help Wirecard expand into Japan and South Korea, as well as build and provide financial services to SoftBank’s extensive list of portfolio companies, which includes the likes of Uber, OpenDoor Labs, WeWork, Grab, DoorDash, Alibaba and more.
“Under the [Memorandum of Understanding], SoftBank Group will seek to support Wirecard’s geographic expansion into Japan and South Korea, as well as providing collaboration opportunities within SoftBank Group’s global portfolio in digital payments, data-analytics/AI and other innovative digital financial services,” Wirecard noted in a statement. Wirecard added that the deal is also likely to include a “joint exploration of new product and service offers in digital lending in order to leverage from high quality customer portfolios, strong liquidity and other innovative financing solutions.”
Wirecard is publicly traded and currently has a market cap of €17.18 billion (around $19 billion). It competes with the likes of Adyen, FirstData, WorldPay, Stripe and more. Having had its start as far back as 1999 in working with online gambling sites, today it also works with challenger banks and other new fintech startups like Number26 and TransferWise.
But the investment to expand in Asia comes at a somewhat thorny time for Wirecard. The company has been facing an inquiry in Singapore over fraud allegations both in Asia and its home market of Germany. It has denied the allegations.
“As global innovators, we focus heavily on expanding our networks and creating opportunities for companies with groundbreaking ideas,” Wirecard CEO Markus Braun, said in a statement. “In SoftBank we have found a partner that shares both our passion for new technologies and drive to spearhead the latest innovations, all on a global scale. In addition, through this potential partnership, we will expand our reach and products to the East Asian markets, thereby further strengthening our position in Asia.”
Wirecard said that as part of the deal, it will issue convertible bonds with a term of five years exclusively to SoftBank, convertible to 6,923,076 ordinary Wirecard shares (currently corresponding to approximately 5.6% of common stock) at €130 per Wirecard share. The deal is subject to the approval of Wirecard’s Annual Shareholders meeting, which will be held on 18 June 2019.
Wirecard offers end-to-end services covering all aspects of payments, with a particular emphasis on digital transactions. It also provides card issuing, risk management, data analytics and related services.
SoftBank has become one of the world’s most influential investors with its $100 billion Vision Fund. It’s not clear which division of SoftBank is leading this particular transaction — the news announcement specifies only that “an affiliate of SoftBank” is making the investment — but despite the Vision Fund being located in London, it’s made relatively few fintech investments in Europe out of the Vision Fund. For that reason, this stake in Wirecard, based out of Munich, is also notable.