FairFX Group PLC targets small business with CardOne acqusition

Summer is here and a traveller’s thoughts turn to foreign currency – good news for FairFX Group Plc (LON:FFX), which was voted the UK’s most trusted pre-paid card provider in 2016.

It beat off competition from the likes of Travelex and Thomas Cook to win the award but, unlike those big names, you won’t find FairFX bureaus and kiosks on the high street or in airports.

Instead, FairFX has developed a cloud-based peer-to-peer (P2P) payments platform that enables personal and business customers to change money easily and cheaply.

Now it is making a major move into the world of digital banking through the acquisition of CardOne for £15mln.

CardOne adds bank function to currency expertise

It is one of the few card providers able to offer a comprehensive digital banking service said FairFX, which will use CardOne Group’s infrastructure and technical capability to speed up its own roll-out of a small business banking product.

Business foreign exchange offers a bigger market opportunity than consumer cards it said, where competition has increased.

FairFX already believes it has a significant competitive advantage in the SME market through its business expense management platform.

Earnings boost

The CardOne acquisition is expected to be earnings enhancing in the first full year following completion, with cost savings and synergies estimated at £3.5mln over 3 years.

CardOne made a profit of £800,000 on sales of £5.5mln in 2016 and posted a profit of £600,000 in the first half of 2017.

Shareholders snap up placing

A conditional placing to raise a net £25mln at 58p per share funded the acquisition, with up to a further £1mln to come from an open offer.

FairFX said the placing was heavily oversubscribed by both new and existing institutional shareholders with some £4.7mln of the funds coming from VCT/EIS investors.

Shares were on the up ahead of the deal, which prompted a statement in the week preceding flagging up it was coming.

Even though the price of 58p was well below the market price, the shares have held around 71p, which values the group at £75mln before the placing.

FairFX posts first interim profit

On its own, the multi-currency payments service FairFX Group Plc (LON:FFX) has just achieved its first interim net profit since floating in August 2014.

The trading statement covered the first half of 2017, with a 25.8% year-on-year increase in turnover to £433.8mln.

FairFX said a combination of a more profitable business mix, leading to an improved gross margin and cost benefits of rationalising the supply chain, resulted in the better-than-anticipated performance.

Total turnover from pre-paid cards and international payments rose 23% and 35%, respectively.

Usage of the company’s corporate card platform rose 93% year-on-year, despite the fact sterling took a biffing both before and after the General Election.

On the retail card and travel money side of the business, the focus has remained on improving the user experience of FairFX across all its platforms.

Sky Sports’ F1 coverage

While you won’t see FairFX on your local high street, if you’re a fan of Formula One racing there’s a good chance you’ll see them on Sky Sports.

For the second season, FairFX is sponsoring the coverage on the broadcaster’s dedicated racing channel, Sky Sports F1.

The latest advertising campaign features the group’s various currency products, including currency cards, corporate cards and international payments and will help to raise awareness of the brand.

FairFX said the previous advertising stint on Sky Sports F1 “clearly demonstrated” benefits in terms of brand awareness and cost effective customer acquisition, hence why it has decided to return again this year.

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