Estonian-founded British company Wise to go public in a direct London listing

The Estonian-founded money transfer firm, Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, has announced it is planning to go public in the London Stock Exchange through a direct listing.

Kristo Käärmann, the Estonian co-founder and chief executive of the fintech firm, said in a statement a direct listing allowed the company “a cheaper and more transparent way” to broaden Wise’s ownership than a traditional stock market launch.

The direct listing means the company will not raise new capital or involve new investors, but the shares owned by Wise’s existing shareholders will become tradable on the London Stock Exchange.

TransferWise was launched as a peer-to-peer money transfer startup in London in early 2011 by Estonians Taavet Hinrikus, Skype’s first employee, and Kristo Käärmann. The firm started with making transfers between the British pound and the euro, over the years expanding to other currencies. In 2014, the British businessman Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, invested $25 million in the TransferWise.

Sir Richard Branson (in the middle) welcoming Taavet Hinrikus (left) and Kristo Käärmann (right).

$5 billion valuation in ten years

By 2019, TransferWise was the most valuable fintech startup in Europe, valued at $3.5 billion. As of July 2020, its value had increased to $5 billion, making the founders – Käärmann and Hinrikus – the wealthiest Estonians. In 2020, the company made a £30.9 million ($43 million/€36 million) profit on a revenue of £421 million ($587 million/€491 million).

In early 2021, TransferWise shortened its name to simply Wise. The company is headquartered in London but retains a sizable office also in Estonia.

The London Stock Exchange is one of the oldest exchanges in the world. As of 2020, it is the eighth largest stock exchange in the world. Despite Brexit, London has retained its status as a global financial centre – in the Global Financial Centres Index, the city is second, just behind New York.

Cover: Wise’s founders, Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus. Photo by Wise.

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