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SYDNEY - Square Inc, the payments firm of Twitter Inc co-founder Jack Dorsey, will purchase buy now, pay later (BNPL) pioneer Afterpay Ltd for $29 billion, creating a global transactions giant in the biggest buyout of an Australian firm.
The takeover underscores the popularity of a business model that has upended consumer credit by charging merchants a fee to offer small point-of-sale loans which their shoppers repay in interest-free instalments, bypassing credit checks.
It also locks in a remarkable share-price run for Afterpay, whose stock traded below A$10 in early 2020 and has since soared as the COVID-19 pandemic - and stimulus payments to a workforce stuck at home - saw a rapid shift to shopping online.
The all-stock buyout would value the shares at A$126.21 ($92.65), the companies said in a joint statement on Monday.
That means a payday of A$2.46 billion each for Afterpay's founders, Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar. China's Tencent Holdings Ltd, which paid A$300 million for 5% of Afterpay in 2020, would pocket A$1.7 billion.
"Acquiring Afterpay is a 'proof of concept' moment for buy now, pay later, at once validating the industry and creating a formidable new competitor for Affirm Holdings Inc, PayPal Holdings Inc and Klarna Inc," Truist Securities analysts said.
"We expect Square will invest heavily to integrate Afterpay and accelerate organic revenue growth."
Afterpay shares jumped slightly higher than Square's indicative purchase price in early trading before settling just below it at A$116.51 by mid afternoon, up 20.55% and helping push the broader market up 1.4%.
"We built our business to make the financial system more fair, accessible, and inclusive, and Afterpay has built a trusted brand aligned with those principles," said Dorsey in the statement.
"Together we can better connect our ... ecosystems to deliver even more compelling products and services for merchants and consumers, putting the power back in their hands."
The Afterpay founders said the deal marked "an important recognition of the Australian technology sector as homegrown innovation continues to be shared more broadly throughout the world".
The deal, which eclipses the previous record for a completed Australian buyout - the $16 billion sale of Westfield's global shopping mall empire to Unibail-Rodamco in 2018 - also pushed up shares of rival BNPL player Zip Co Ltd, by 7.53%.
Afterpay also competes with unlisted Sweden-based Klarna Inc as well as new offerings from U.S. veteran online payments provider PayPal Holdings Inc.
"Few other suitors are as well-suited as Square," said Wilsons Advisory and Stockbroking analysts in a research note.
"With ... PayPal already achieving early success in their native BNPL, other than major U.S. tech-titans (Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc) lobbying an 11-th hour bid, we expect a competing proposal from a new party to be low-risk."