Kazakhstan’s largest financial technology firm Kaspi.kz has signed a purchase agreement with Ukraine-based online payment service Portmone, according to financial statements Kaspi.kz published on July 26.
If Ukraine’s Antimonopoly Committee and the National Bank approve the acquisition, Kaspi Pay, a subsidiary of Kaspi.kz, will buy 100% of shares of Portmone Group. Kaspi.kz expects to finalize the deal in the final quarter of 2021.
The companies did not disclose the amount of the acquisition: “We are not commenting right now. You have to wait for the official announcement,” Portmone’s CEO Dmytro Basov told the Kyiv Post. “The only thing I can say is that we expect very positive news and events.”
Ukrainian investors estimate that Portmone could cost Kazakhstan’s fintech giant anywhere between $10-15 million. Investors are basing their estimates on similar deals signed in Eastern Europe.
The acquisition of Portmone is good news both for Kaspi.kz and Ukraine, experts say. Many Ukrainian and foreign investors have already set their sights on the country’s growing fintech market, according to Yuriy Chayka, the founder of online payment service MobiPay. “More investors will enter the market this year,” he told the Kyiv Post.
Founded in 2002 by Ukrainian entrepreneur Igor Gorin, Portmone provides payments and money transfers in Ukraine. In 2019, the company had over 5 million active users and 100 million transactions. The company’s revenue in 2020 was over $1 billion, with a net profit of $13,000.
The service has become very popular among Ukrainians because it allows to users to pay utility bills, buy tickets, to purchase subscriptions with Ukrainian media, pay taxes and top-up mobile phones.
Portmone also works with over 7,000 local merchants, including OLX, Radisson Blu, Dominoʼs, Oriflame and Good Wine. It allows them to take or repay loans with their banks directly through the site or on the mobile application.
In 2013, Ukraine’s investment fund Dragon Capital bought a stake in the company but didn’t disclose the amount of the acquisition. Experts said that Dragon Capital bought Portmone to resell it in the future.
The fund didn’t publicly respond to the deal between Kaspi.kz and Portmone. “We only give comments about the deals that are finalized,” Dragon Capital told the Kyiv Post.
With the purchase of Portmone, Kaspi.kz will also receive a license from credit card brands Visa and Mastercard allowing it to work in Ukraine. Portmone is also interesting to Kaspi.kz because they have a similar business model, said Sergey Vatilik, CEO of the online payment system Wayforpay.
Kaspi.kz started as a bank but is now betting on technology to grow. Its mobile payments and banking app is used by around half of Kazakhstan — the company has over 7 million monthly users. Kaspi.kz has flourished during the pandemic. It earned $619 million in net income on $1.5 billion in revenue in 2020 compared to $515 million in net income and $1.3 billion in revenue in 2019, according to the company’s financial statement.
For Kaspi.kz, Ukraine is a huge market with a population of 42 million compared to 18 million in Kazakhstan. The market also has room to change because Ukrainians still use a lot of cash and have a small 8% share of e-commerce businesses in retail, according to Kaspi’s analysis. “The acquisition of Portmone puts our payments platform in a strong position to end up in Ukraine.”
With its 212,000 tech specialists, Ukraine is also “an important source of IT talent and a development hub for Kaspi.kz,” the company said.
Ukraine is only the first country in Eastern Europe that Kaspi.kz plans to enter, Chayka said. Last year, Kaspi.kz went public, with a valuation of $6.5 billion. The company’s initial public offering, IPO, on the London Stock Exchange ranked in 2020 as the second biggest in the U.K. and the fourth largest in Europe.
“It makes sense to invest money raised during the IPO in expansion to other regions,” Vatilik said.
In Ukraine, the Kazakh ‘unicorn,’ could potentially buy other fintech companies, helping the company to replicate its success in Kazakhstan on the foreign market, Chayka said.
“I hope they will be able to show their best. But it will be incredibly difficult,” said Oleg Gorohovsky, the founder of popular fintech brand Monobank. According to Gorohovsky, the Ukrainian financial market has many pitfalls: it overregulates acquiring banks, making it hard to build an e-commerce business.
Kaspi.kz will also have to compete in Ukraine with popular fintech brands like Monobank, Privat24, iPay and EasyPay, as well as international giants like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
“I love strong competitors. They motivate and empower,” Gorohovsky said. “We definitely won’t lose in our field. And clients will benefit from this fight anyway,” he added.
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