This has been an exciting year for maturing tech start-ups in London wanting to cash up or looking for further investment. In the UK’s burgeoning fintech sector, which has produced unicorns like Revolut and Checkout.com, and attracted $4.1 billion in venture capital investment last year, we have two contrasting cases to consider of share flotation this year on the London Stock Exchange: Wise and Deliveroo.
The story of Wise and Deliveroo
When Deliveroo, the London-based food delivery start-up, announced plans to float in early 2021, there were hopes it would usher in a new era of major tech companies flocking to the City. At the end of April, Deliveroo floated with a value of £7.6 billion but fell by 30 percent on the first day of trading and hit a low of 228p the following month.
The disappointing start of the Initial Public Offering (IPO), which was set to be the biggest London listing in a decade, comes after the delivery giant chose to list at the lower end of its target range amid growing concerns from investors. Chief among their concerns was the company’s dual-class share structure that would concentrate power in the hands of founder Will Shu and fears over the sustainability of its business model and concerns over the legal status of its riders.
Wise is a shiny financial technology unicorn that was already featured in our Silicon Roundabout blog about the flourishing London fintech sector back in May. They had a much less bumpy ride, becoming London’s biggest float of 2021 and on 7th July, Wise valuation reached £8.75 billion.
Contrary to Deliveroo’s IPO share listing, Wise opted for direct listing of its shares. In direct listings, companies do not create new shares or raise any fresh capital, in turn avoiding the need to hire investment banks as underwriters. The method has proved popular with tech firms looking to avoid costly fees or mispricings.
Another major difference in share valuation is that Wise has been a profitable company since 2017 as well as the global foreign exchange market is worth $6.6trn a day; suggesting Wise hasn’t even scratched the market’s surface.
On the other hand, the food delivery market has never been profitable as a whole and it’s been very competitive for many years, even before COVID-19 derailed its ambitions of the IPO. All three major food delivery firms: Deliveroo, JustEat and Uber Eats, have been engaged in a ‘race to the bottom’ by slashing fees, which leaves their profit margins very small.
Despite Deliveroo’s initial listing fiasco, it hasn’t lowered the appetite for further floats of numerous tech unicorns based in the UK looking for investment. Deliveroo’s share price has recovered since April on the back of a victory in the fight for its riders to be recognised as self-employed, a strong second-quarter trading update and an investment from Delivery Hero. Wise share price is still going strong and has more or less stabilised at around 900p, but challenges lay ahead. We’ll be watching these two, and other London tech unicorns, very closely.
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