Funding Circle计划上市的消息实际上是由Sky News于新年前夕所披露的。Sky News报道称Funding Circle正计划雇佣顾问，开启IPO第一步。据称该公司将于本季度面试投资银行将，或将于深秋在伦敦上市。
Funding Circle一年前募资1亿美元，估值未知。但据《华尔街日报》称，其2015年融资轮时估值超10亿美元。Sky News文章报道称现有投资方等人士商定的估值为20亿美元。
我上周曾与Funding Circle的CEO Samir Desai进行了简短谈话，不过他没有公开表态证实或否认潜在IPO。Desai所说的唯一事情就是该公司并未就IPO计划发表正式声明。
然而Funding Circle却可能带来的是另一番光景。该公司在美业务可观，我们近期得知该公司发放贷款超10亿美元。Funding Circle目前未欧洲最大的市场借贷平台，也是英国最具价值的金融科技企业。
过去几周，我得知许多人认为Lending Club与OnDeck亏损将对Funding Circle估值产生负面影响。Kadhim Shubber近期在其《金融时报》专栏中提出了此论点。我并不完全同意Kadhim的观点，尤其是Funding Circle将被视作SaaS企业这一看法。此外，我还不认为将Lending Club与OnDeck同Funding Circle进行类比适宜得当。
Funding Circle将于伦敦证交所上市，与其相较的对象为英国金融科技企业，而非美国公司。在我过去几周与他人进行的谈话中，有几人提到了该公司可能具备的优势。英国许多投资方只能投资英国企业，他们时刻在找寻新的商机。有消息称许多这类投资者有兴趣将Funding Circle加入其投资组合。
目前，Funding Circle并不试图与陆金所的高估值相匹敌。两家企业业务模式完全不同。Funding Circle并未开发多种产品，该公司有着一项核心产品：对小企业发放短期贷款。小企业短期贷款市场规模庞大，仍有待开发。大多数国家小型企业在获取信贷方面未充分享受到应有的服务，而在美国语英国这两大最大的市场也仍具备增长空间。股市是否会相信Funding Circle的愿景并回报其以讨论中近20亿美元的估值，让我们拭目以待。
The year is barely two weeks old and we have already learned of IPO plans for two of the world’s leading fintech companies. Funding Circle has become a leading global brand in small business lending with operations in the UK, US, The Netherlands and Germany. Lufax is the Chinese fintech giant that began life as a peer to peer lender back in 2012 but has since expanded to become a leader in online wealth management.
Lufax is Preparing for an April IPO in Hong Kong
Neither IPO is a surprise as both companies have indicated their intentions before. But we now have a clearer indication on the timing. First off the rank will likely be Lufax. The South China Morning Post reported that Lufax is planning to do their IPO in Hong Kong in April at a possible valuation of US$60 billion. This would be more than three times the valuation of their previous funding round in 2016.
I interviewed the CEO of Lufax on the Lend Academy Podcast a few months ago and he said they were ready to go with the IPO but they were waiting for the timing to be right. With more clarity on the regulatory front and no significant negative news coming out of China recently the timing certainly looks to be good. Of course, Lufax has not commented officially on the story but reportedly they have hired bankers including Citic Securities, Citi, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.
A Funding Circle IPO in the Fall?
The Funding Circle news actually broke just before the New Year with this article from Sky News. They reported that the company was preparing to hire advisors in the first steps towards an IPO. They are supposedly going to interview investment bankers this quarter with a possible listing in London in late fall which would put us in the latter part of the third quarter.
Funding Circle last raised $100 million a year ago at an unknown valuation but in their previous round in 2015 they were valued at more than $1 billion according to The Wall Street Journal. The Sky News article reported that valuation numbers being discussed, at least by existing investors, was ￡2 billion.
I spoke briefly with Funding Circle CEO Samir Desai last week and not surprisingly he would not go on the record with a confirmation or denial of any upcoming IPO. The only thing he did say was that the company has made no formal announcement about any IPO plans.
What Does This Mean for the US Market?
While Lufax has no real comps in the US as there is no fintech platform that has more than $77 billion in assets under management. They have no US operations and no plans to start any. So, a successful IPO for Lufax will probably not have much in the way of flow on effects here.
But Funding Circle could be a different story. They have a significant US operation which we learned recently crossed $1 billion in total loans issued. They are by far the largest marketplace lending platform in Europe and are one of the UK’s most valuable fintech companies.
Over the last couple of weeks I have heard many people say that the deflated valuations at Lending Club and OnDeck would negatively impact a Funding Circle valuation. Kadhim Shubber lays out this argument his recent column in the FT. I don’t agree with everything Kadhim shares there, in particular the idea that Funding Circle could be looked at as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business. And I also don’t think Lending Club and OnDeck make good comps for the company.
Funding Circle will be going public on the London Stock Exchange and will be compared to other UK fintech companies, not US companies. In my conversations I have had over the past couple of weeks several people have mentioned an advantage that Funding Circle may have. There are many investors in the UK who have a mandate to invest only in UK companies and they are always looking for new opportunities. Sources have told me that many of these investors may be interested in adding Funding Circle to their investment portfolio.
Anyway, this is all hearsay, we will find out soon enough. A successful Funding Circle IPO, one where the valuation rises after it goes public will be very good for the marketplace lending industry in both the UK and the US. We have had little good news here in the last couple of years when it comes to the public markets and I would very much like to see a success story here. But we all know the public markets can be fickle so there are certainly no guarantees.
Lufax has successfully expanded beyond their original peer to peer loan product. That is now a minor part of their business as they have become the largest online wealth management firm in China. This provides a recurring revenue stream that is uncorrelated to their lending business and will likely help them become the world’s second most valuable fintech company behind Ant Financial when they go public.
Now, Funding Circle is not trying to reach anywhere near the stratospheric valuation of Lufax and they have a very different business. Rather than diversify into multiple products they have one core product: term loans to small business. The market for this one product is huge and still relatively untapped. Small businesses are underserved when it comes to access to credit in most countries in the world and they clearly have room to grow in their two largest markets, the US and UK. It will be very interesting to see if the public markets believe in Funding Circle’s vision and rewards them with something close to the ￡2 billion valuation being discussed.
We will be watching closely and will report the news on both IPOs if and when they do happen this year.