Payments app Wise has confirmed it plans a London direct listing in a float that is expected to give the company a valuation of up to £9bn.
The London-headquartered fintech will have a dual-class share structure that will give its founders and early investors super-sized voting rights.
Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, was founded in 2010 by Estonian businessmen Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann after they became frustrated at the charges to send money between London and Estonia.
Wise has thousands of bank accounts around the world holding local currency, which means a transfer on its service does not need to be converted. This allows Wise to offer more competitive fees and exchange rates than traditional banks.
The company transfers £5bn for its 10 million customers each month. It offers transfers in 56 currencies and now employees close to 2,500 people.
It is believed to be the first London direct listing for a tech company. A direct listing sees existing shares sold directly to the public without the involvement of intermediaries. Experts say it provides more transparency but critics argue it can create more volatility in the share price.
In the US direct listings are more common, with companies such as Slack and more recently Squarespace choosing to shun the more traditional initial public offering (IPO).
Wise said it is choosing a direct listing because it doesn’t need to raise fresh capital.
“Wise is used to challenging convention, and this listing is no exception,” said Käärmann, Wise’s co-founder and chief executive.
He added: “A direct listing allows us a cheaper and more transparent way to broaden Wise’s ownership, aligned with our mission.”
It is expected to finalise the listing on 5 July. Sky News first reported Wise’s plan to go public.
Unlike Uber and Airbnb, Wise will go public as a profitable company. The fintech said it has been profitable since 2017 and has hit £421m in sales this year.
Deliveroo’s poor IPO – described as one of the worst in London’s history – was in part attributed to its dual-class share structure that gave its CEO greater voting rights.
Wise’s decision to adopt a similar structure will raise concerns that it could also backfire for the money transfer service.
London’s tech listing scene was salvaged by the float of cybersecurity company Darktrace, which saw shares jump by as much as 43% on the opening day – despite the company’s ties to alleged fraudster Mike Lynch.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is seeking to reform the UK’s stock market rules to attract more tech businesses to list shares in London and discourage promising British companies from listing overseas.
Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Barclays are the listing’s lead advisors.