The U.S. bank JP Morgan Chase acquires a 49% stake in the Greek cloud-based neobank Viva Wallet in a deal that turns the fintech company into a unicorn and helps JP Morgan realize key objectives regarding its omnichannel strategy.
In essence, JP Morgan acquires the minority stakes of the previous investors and invests new cash as well. This type of deal is also known as a Replacement Capital. Reportedly, the US bank will acquire the shares of three funds that have previously invested in Viva Wallet – Hedosophia, the family office Latsi, and Deca. The remaining 51% of Viva will stay with the other shareholders and the founders Haris Karonis and Makis Antypas, who will continue to manage the company.
The news comes a day after the director of the Finance Office of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Alexis Patelis, tweeted that this week two major acquisitions of Greek companies by American companies will be announced. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals and its amount is still not disclosed but according to some Greek media outlets, it is estimated at around €700M.
“We are very excited to make a strategic investment in Viva Wallet to support their vision to empower new growth and payments innovation targeted at European small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and middle-market merchant services clients. The European payments landscape is fragmented yet large in terms of opportunity, with more than 17 million merchants ready to implement scalable payments solutions and this is a big focus area for added growth for J.P. Morgan Payments in the future,” Takis Georgakopoulos, Global Head of J.P. Morgan Payments, said in a press release.
Viva Wallet’s 22 years of growth
From a banking software development company, Viva Wallet has grown to become the first European fully cloud-based neobank that provides localized payment and credit services to SMEs. The company has offices in 23 European countries and has truly transformed the way European businesses get paid and pay.
Viva Wallet offers businesses acceptance of 24 payment methods, allowing them to create business accounts with local IBAN, and issue a debit card. The cloud-based neobank had developed its own POS application, advanced e-commerce payment systems, and add-on Google play devices.
The last fundraising round of Viva Wallet was an $80M post-Series C closed in April 2021 from the Chinese internet company Tencent, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, and Breyer Capital. In an interview for The Recursive, Yannis Larios, Viva Wallet’s VP of Strategy and Business Development, shared that besides payments and lending in April 2021, the company was also testing the waters of the buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) space.
In addition, acquisitions and strategic investments have been part of the development strategy of Viva Wallet as it has previously acquired stakes in the software development company N7 Mobile and the payment fraud prevention company Fraudio. In 2020, Viva Wallet acquired the Greek digital lender Praxia Bank to start lending and enabling merchants to de-risk their working capital.
According to the financial statements publicly available on the Viva Wallet’s website, in 2020 the company made a revenue of €44M which marked a 29% increase compared to 2019.
JP Morgan’s strategy to bring fintech disruptors under its roof
Despite being the US’s largest bank by assets, in the past couple of years, JP Morgan has been focused on further boosting its revenues. To a large extent, it had relied on making strategic acquisitions of tech companies, thus surpassing the competition in the face of large fintechs and internet giants such as Google and Apple.
Data from Dealroom shows that up to this point, JP Morgan has made 44 acquisitions of digital startups and scaleups, most of which in the fintech and enterprise software industries. Here are the latest acquisitions of the US bank:
- 55ip, a fintech company that provides automated tools to financial advisors. The acquired company still operates as a separate entity under the JP Morgan brand.
- cxLoyalty, a credit card digital rewards company based. Now, cxLoyalty operates as a business unit of JP Morgan.
- Nutmeg, a UK digital wealth management platform.
- OpenInvest, a Silicon Valley fintech startup and a YC graduate that is focused on ESG investments.
How did Viva Wallet and JP Morgan reach the deal
According to knowledgeable sources cited by Bloomberg, the Greek neobank has been working with an advisor to explore some potential options for strategic investors. In addition, the company has been seeking a valuation of around €1.5B in any transaction.
On the other hand, in December 2020 during a conference, JP Morgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, made a public call for merger-and-acquisition ideas. “If you’ve got brilliant ideas, give me a call. If you’re a competitor investment bank and you bring the idea, you get the fee,” he said. Moreover, the strategic investment in Viva Wallet is a natural fit for the strategy of J.P. Morgan’s Payments business which is focused on developing its omnichannel merchant acquiring capabilities offered to European SMEs.
“Viva Wallet’s mission is to change the way businesses pay and get paid in Europe with cutting edge technology, unprecedented agility, and in-depth knowledge of the European payments landscape. This strategic investment from J.P. Morgan’s Payments business will enable us to complete the build out of our vision to deliver fully localized payments and transactions services to SMBs across Europe,” Haris Karonis, CEO and co-founder of Viva Wallet, shared.