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November 24, 2021

“I’m not a star like Elon Musk” says Klarna CEO, damping IPO rumours

By Eric Johansson

The CEO of Klarna says he shouldn’t be compared to Tesla boss Elon Musk and encourages people to not hold their breath waiting for his buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) quadradecacorn to go public.

Speaking with Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri, Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the company is better placed than ever to file for an initial public offering (IPO), but that it hasn’t started the work to do so in earnest.

“I want Klarna to continue to be a long-term company,” the Klarna CEO said. “Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have become such massive stars that it doesn’t really matter what a quarterly report says, but not everyone’s that lucky.”

The Swedish BNPL business became Europe’s most valuable privately-owned tech company in June following a $639m funding round that took its valuation to $45.6bn. That was up from the $31bn valuation the fintech had achieved in March following a $1bn funding round.

The size of these rounds and the fintech’s ever-growing valuation have caused speculation that Klarna might file for an IPO. The rumours have been given some credence by the company naming Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz as its new chairman of the board in December 2020.

Siemiatkowski himself has attempted to downplay these expectations in the past, telling the Financial Times in May that he didn’t want to float in an overheated market.

The CEO has also said Klarna may not even opt for an IPO, instead opting for a direct listing. A direct listing would mean Klarna wouldn’t use the float to raise more money.

No matter whether Klarna files for an IPO, becomes public via a SPAC or opts for a direct listing, the company has been clear that it will not remain just a BNPL company for long.

Alex Marsh, head of UK at Klarna, recently told Verdict in an exclusive interview that the company aims to take control of customers’ entire shopping experience.

It will do so by providing a marketplace where they can shop on its app, use its payments services and also access new Klarna banking services, which have already been rolled out in Germany and Sweden.

The BNPL industry has enjoyed explosive growth over the past few years. The global sector is expected to be worth $166bn by 2023, according to GlobalData’s thematic research.