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Italy's Nexi clinches all-share merger with Nordic rival Nets

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's largest payments group Nexi NEXII.MI on Sunday struck its second tie-up deal in six weeks, agreeing a 7.8 billion euros ($9.2 billion) merger with Nordic rival Nets to create a major European player.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Italian payments group Nexi is pictured inside their headquarters in Milan, Italy, March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo/File Photo

The payments industry has been going through a period of rapid consolidation, and Nexi and Nets’ all-share deal follows a long-awaited accord the Italian firm announced in early October to buy domestic rival SIA for 4.6 billion euros in shares.

Nexi said the two transactions would create a group with pro-forma 2020 revenues of 2.9 billion euros and core profit of 1.5 billion. Annual synergies are estimated at 320 million.

The Nets acquisition gives Milan-listed Nexi access to advanced digital payments markets in northern Europe, where the Danish group has a leading presence, as well as exposure to central and eastern Europe which offers growth potential.

Under a binding accord the two companies signed at the end of an exclusivity period, shareholders in Nets will receive newly issued Nexi shares subject to a lockup mechanism of up to 24 months and will eventually own 31% of the Nexi-Nets-SIA group.

With a 17% stake, Italian state lender CDP, currently SIA’s controlling shareholder, will be the single largest investor in what will be one of Europe’s largest payment services provider.

Nexi said in a statement it expected to close the Nets deal in the second quarter of 2021. The SIA transaction is due to close in the third quarter.

Analysts said Nexi may face challenges in going through two major transactions in quick succession.

Nexi jumped at the opportunity which arose when U.S. group Global Payments GPN.N pulled out of the race for Nets wary of making an acquisition abroad among a second coronavirus wave, a source close to the matter said.

Nets also took advantage of the fact that rival Worldline WLN.PA was busy with the agreed acquisition of Ingenico INGC.PA, the source said.

Nexi CEO Paolo Bertoluzzo will lead the new group that will remain listed in Milan.

HSBC, Centerview, BofA Securities, Goldman Sachs, Lazard, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Mediobanca and Citi acted as advisers on the deal.

Reporting by Elisa Anzolin; editing by Valentina Za

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