July 2, 2018 / 5:36 PM / 3 months ago

Varde weighing options for Spain's WiZink, including IPO: sources

FRANKFURT/MADRID (Reuters) - Investment firm Varde Partners is studying options for its online bank WiZink, including an initial public offering (IPO) in 2019, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Varde is meeting banks and its priority for now is to secure funds to finance the purchase of the remaining 49 percent stake of the online lender, one of the sources said.

In March, Varde agreed to buy the shares it did not already own in WiZink, which specializes in consumer loans through its credit card unit, for an undisclosed sum from Banco Santander.

Santander said at the time it expected the deal to close in the second half of 2018.

Varde is looking at issuing bonds or a bridge loan to fund the stake purchase, one of the sources said.

In the last few weeks, Varde has met with investment banks to structure the financing of WiZink, with an IPO considered among other options, two sources said.

“Varde is preparing WiZink for an IPO during the first months of 2019. It is a company with an equity value of around 2.5 billion euros,” one of the sources said.

Varde and WiZink declined to comment.

Another source familiar with the matter said: “an IPO is without any doubt one of many options but that it is not what meetings were scheduled for”.

On the back of a recovering economy, consumer credit has been increasing rapidly in Spain.

In a recent report, the Bank of Spain said consumer credit growth had outstripped the euro zone average since mid-2015, and increased by more than 10 percent since mid-2016.

In 2017, WiZink reported a net profit of 110 million euros, according to the annual report of Santander and Banco Popular. Banco Santander bought Banco Popular in June of 2017

Writing by Andrés González; Editing by Jesús Aguado and Mark Potter

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