The fintech giant Wise hopes to press the button within days on a long-awaited public flotation that will cement its status as one of Britain’s most valuable start-ups of the last decade.
EuroJournal has learnt that Wise has drawn up plans to launch a direct listing on the London Stock Exchange as soon as this week.
City sources said the exact timing depended on final approvals from regulators which meant an announcement could yet be delayed until later in the month.
Wise’s public market debut will be a landmark moment for the payments app, which now boasts more than 10m customers and transfers £5bn on their behalf every month.
Insiders expect the company’s flotation to value it at up to £9bn – well ahead of previous estimates – although the volatility which has beset recent London technology company listings mean Wise’s advisers may take a cautious approach to its initial valuation.
They added that a valuation of well above £5bn was “almost certain”.
EuroJournal revealed earlier this year that Wise planned to list without raising new capital from investors – a process known as an introduction or direct listing.
It also plans to deploy a dual-class share structure that will enable its founders and early investors to retain voting control – a proposal that could replicate the controversy seen with Deliveroo’s initial public offering in the spring.
At Wise, such a move would not only preserve voting control solely in the hands of Kristo Kaarmann, Wise’s co-founder and chief executive.
Early investors such as Sir Richard Branson, Baillie Gifford and Andreessen Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s leading investment firms, would also see their holdings converted into the new class of shares.
Wise has grown into an international payments giant, offering transfers in 56 currencies and now employing close to 2,500 people.
Its decision to go public in London – despite a push from some of its newest investors to float in New York – will delight British politicians during a period of intense debate about London’s attractiveness as a listing destination for technology companies.
A government-commissioned review published earlier in the year by Lord Hill, the former EU Commissioner, recommended reforms aimed at liberalising governance structures to draw more overseas companies to the UK.
It is also aimed at preventing British ‘unicorns’ – companies worth at least $1bn – from listing overseas, an ambition which has been damaged by the wave of US-based special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) luring businesses such as Cazoo and Vertical Aerospace onto US markets.
Deliveroo and Alphawave have seen their shares struggle since going public, while the cybersecurity company Darktrace slashed its valuation ambitions in order to get its float away.
If Wise does proceed with the dual-class structure, it would not be eligible for the London market’s premium listing segment or inclusion in leading indices for as long as it remains in place.
A direct listing, or introduction as it is often called in the London market, remains comparatively rare for capital-hungry technology companies which routinely use IPOs as a way of strengthening their balance sheets.
Wise is working with Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley on its flotation plans.
The company, which was founded by Taavet Hinrikus and Mr Kaarmann, has become one of the prime targets of chancellor Rishi Sunak for a London flotation.
Executives have held talks with the prime minister and the chancellor about its IPO ambitions in recent months.
Wise is seen as a particularly important company to persuade to float in London because of its rapid international growth.
Last July, D1 Capital Partners, which has placed substantial bets on some of the world’s biggest tech companies bought a $200m stake from other TransferWise investors.
That deal came in the wake of Wise securing a licence from the Financial Conduct Authority to offer investment products, a move that it says will enable customers’ cash balances to earn a more attractive return.
It has, however, no plans to become a fully-fledged bank that would – in the UK – compete with the likes of Monzo, Revolut or Starling.
Mr Hinrikus and Mr Kaarmann, who were born in Estonia, set the company up amid frustration about the cost of sending money overseas.
A flotation would make them both paper billionaires if estimates of the size of their shareholdings in TransferWise – they are thought to own roughly 40% between them – are correct.
The company became a “unicorn” – a tech start-up worth at least $1bn – in 2015, and is more richly valued than other British fintech champions such as Oaknorth, the digital bank, which has raised hundreds of millions of pounds from SoftBank’s Vision Fund.
A spokeswoman for Wise, which until recently was called TransferWise, declined to comment.