The Next Wave of M&A

Mergers, Acquisitions and Listings Driving the Saudi Fintech
Industry

 

Since 2018, 10 Saudi fintech companies have been fully or partially acquired by investors or
listed, 6 Saudi fintech companies have made acquisitions and 2 fintech companies have
listed. Exit and acquisition activity plays a crucial role in advancing the Saudi fintech industry
by providing opportunities for growth, consolidation, and the realization of value for
stakeholders. This article looks at the trends in mergers, acquisitions and exits that are
occurring in relation to the Saudi fintech industry.

Fintech Call Out Box

Benefits of Exit Options and Acquisitions to the Saudi Fintech Industry

  • Employees that sell their shares receive a windfall, which may create a new generation of fintech entrepreneurs and angel investors
  • Inspires more people to start fintech businesses knowing that exits are achievable
  • Increases the attraction of the Saudi fintech industry for venture capital and potential acquirers

Acquisitions Made by Saudi Fintech Companies

  • Highlights the maturity and progress of the Saudi fintech industry
  • Inspires other Saudi fintech companies to consider acquisitions
  • Supports an injection of talent and innovative solutions into the Saudi fintech industry
  • Supports expansion and growth into other markets

First Wave of Activity Involved International Investors
Acquiring Saudi Fintech Companies

The first acquisitions of Saudi fintech companies were made by international groups.
In May 2018, Gulf Capital (UAE) acquired a strategic stake in Geidea for more than SAR 1bn and has supported Geidea’s expansion to become a leading payment company in the region.
In 2019, Finablr (UAE) acquired a majority share in Bayan Pay to gain access to the Saudi
market.

In November 2020 Western Union signed an agreement with the STC Group to acquire 15% of STC Pay at a value of $200m, making STC Pay the first unicorn in Saudi Arabia and the first fintech unicorn in the Middle East. The acquisition also allowed Western Union to establish itself as the international partner for STC Pay in supporting remittance payments.

All three companies were part of the first cohort of Saudi Central Bank’s Regulatory Sandbox underscoring the importance of the development of the regulatory framework in the Kingdom in supporting investment activity.

Recent Acquisitions of Saudi Fintech Companies have been
driven by the Strategic Priorities of Domestic Companies

As the fintech industry has grown, Saudi fintech companies with innovative solutions have emerged as attractive strategic targets for Saudi companies looking for bolt on acquisitions that support their existing operations.
In May 2021, Resal, a platform focused on prepaid digital cards, rewards and loyalty acquired Boonus, a customer loyalty platform for micro to medium local businesses, providing access to a fast growing customer base.
2022 witnessed significant fintech acquisition activity. In July 2022 Morabaha Marina, a sharia-compliant financing platform acquired 80% stake in Loop (formerly Bayan Pay) to offer a combined value proposition for SMEs to access e-wallet based finance and payment solutions.

In October 2022, Jahez, the food delivery company acquired Marn POS, a Point of Sales systems provider for the food and beverage sectors, to facilitate the vertical integration of their core business.

In November 2022, Wamid, the technology arm of Tadawul, acquired 51% of the data provider Direct FN for SAR 133.9 million ($35.7 million). The acquisition enables Wamid to access regional and global markets where Direct FN has a presence. In the same month, PayTabs acquired Digital Pay (more on this below).

Nomu Provides an Additional Option for Saudi Fintech Companies to Partially Exit

In 2017, Tadawul launched the Saudi Parallel Market (Nomu) to facilitate the listing of smaller, fast growing companies. Nomu operates a parallel equity market with lighter listing requirements than the Main Market, providing an avenue for growing companies that do not yet meet the requirements for the Main Market but are considering a partial exit. Companies listed on Nomu
must float at least 20% of the issued shares or SAR 30m worth of shares, whichever is lower.

Historically Nomu has been used by traditional businesses in materials, industrials and consumer product industries. However,the landscape changed in January 2022 when Jahez became the first technology company to list on Nomu. Subsequently, in March 2022, Saudi Azm, which has a stake in Azm Fintech, became the first company involved in fintech to list on Nomu. In October 2022, Sure Global Technology Company, the provider of Sure Pay also listed on Nomu. These high-profile listings are expected to pave the way for other technology companies to follow suite and explore the opportunities presented by Nomu for future growth and expansion.

Saudi Fintech Companies Are Well Capitalised and Looking
for Acquisitions

In the past couple of years, well capitalised Saudi fintechs have been making acquisitions to consolidate their position in the domestic market and expand internationally.

 

Hala, for instance, has made two acquisitions. In 2021, Hala acquired Fresh POS (Saudi Arabia), a Saudi based ERP system used by SMEs for store management and re-launched it as Hala Cashier, expanding the offering provided by Fresh POS to a wider range of SMEs and integrating other payment solutions provided by Hala. In February 2023, Hala acquired Paymennt.com (UAE) enabling the company to broaden its customer base of SMEs and enhance its product offerings.

Similarly Paytabs has also made two acquisitions. In November 2022, Paytabs acquired Digital Pay (Saudi Arabia), a Saudi Point of Sale (POS) provider, expanding Paytabs reach to retailers and traditional businesses seeking to accept payments through POS terminals. In December 2022, Paytabs acquired Paymes (Turkey), Turkey’s largest social commerce platform, strengthening
Paytabs’ ability to provide payment solutions to micro merchants such as freelancers, artisans, and home based business owners.

In January 2022, Foodics acquired POSRocket (Jordan), the second largest restaurant cloud technology provider in MENA. This allowed Foodics to consolidate its already dominant international position and become a leader in restaurant technology in Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan.

In July 2023, Hyperpay acquired Sanad Cash (Saudi Arabia), an expense management platform for corporates, enabling Hyperpay to expand its offering as it looks to become an all in one digital platform.

In October 2023, Cashin, the payment solutions provider acquired Cardless (Saudi Arabia). The acquisition enables Cashin to offer digital cards through its platform.

In March 2024, RasMal acquired Pentugram (UAE) to expand RasMal’s offering into private capital investment management solutions.

These acquisitions reflect an emerging trend in the Saudi fintech industry, where Saudi companies are actively acquiring companies that expand their customer base, broaden their product offering and solidify their position across the region.

More Acquisition and Exit Activity Is Expected

Going forward, acquisition and exit activity is expected to be a key feature of the Saudi fintech industry due to four reasons.

Strong and Stable Regulatory Environment

The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) and the Capital Market Authority (CMA) have established a robust and stable regulatory environment for fintech activity. This has instilled confidence in companies and investors, encouraging investment into the sector, be it acquiring Saudi fintech companies or
investing into Saudi fintech companies that make acquisitions.

Advancement of Saudi Fintech Companies

As the industry has grown, Saudi fintech companies have also evolved and are becoming attractive acquisition targets or getting ready to make acquisitions. Saudi fintech companies that have developed an innovative fintech product or have grown a particular customer base may become attractive acquisition targets for international companies that want to expand into Saudi Arabia or
domestic companies looking for bolt-on solution to support their existing operations.

Saudi fintech companies that have reached a level of maturity may consider making domestic and international acquisitions that expand their product offering, broaden their customer base or support entry into new markets.

Availability of Capital

Nomu, venture capital, sovereign wealth funds and well capitalised companies with funds for acquisitions now offer more liquidity options than ever before for fintech founders that are looking for an exit or fintech companies seeking to raise capital in order to make acquisitions.

Saudi Attractiveness

Saudi Arabia is the largest consumer market in the Middle East, the world’s largest oil producer and a key G20 country. Alongside government policies encouraging foreign investment, the development of special economic zones and ambitious giga projects, Saudi Arabia has become increasingly attractive for business. These favourable macroeconomic factors support the attractiveness of the Saudi fintech industry for both international groups seeking to acquire Saudi fintech companies and investors supporting the capitalisation of Saudi fintech companies to make acquisitions.

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