Worldline Q3 – solid revenue growth, buys into softpos and marketplace payments

Worldline’s Q3 update provided another very solid set of results demonstrating continued progress towards its objective of building “a premium global Paytech at the heart of the European payment ecosystem.” Revenue is growing nicely, bolt-on acquisitions are filling product gaps and the sale of the Ingenico hardware business brings capital firepower to compete with Nexi and others for merchant portfolios as they become available.

Total revenue increased 20% in Q3 to €1.158bn although the company prefers to quote a rather lower figure of 10% growth, excluding currency and acquisitions. This is sensible expectations management although an American business wouldn’t be so modest. Forward guidance is 8-10% organic revenue growth.

Originally spun out of ATOS, primarily as a back-office processor, Worldline has reorientated itself. Merchant services now account for 72% of group revenue, up from 66% a year ago. Merchant services revenue is the powerhouse, growing 30% in Q3 to €828m or a still impressive 14% excluding acquisitions and a positive exchange rate boost from the strong Swiss franc. Worldline cites market share gains and volume growth. 

Payment volumes grew 17% year on year to €90bn and stand 33% higher than 2019. Growth is broad-based; in-store volume was up 16% and online volume up 23%. Q4 is reported to have begun “still in a very solid trajectory.”

Q3 highlights include a rebound in tourism which boosted travel and hospitality verticals and contributed to a strong performance from DCC. Client wins included Lufthansa Group which will make use of Worldline’s TravelHub solution which “brings 150 payment methods, multi-acquiring, tokenisation and a range of fraud services through a single connection.”

In contrast to merchant services, Worldine’s two other business segments look underpowered, growing sales well below inflation. Financial services revenue increased just 1.5%. Worldline is under sustained price pressure from its large banking customers.

The sale of the Ingenico terminal business to Apollo has finally completed. This brings €1.4bn extra capital which Worldline is likely to spend on further acquisitions as it consolidates the European merchant services market in competition with arch-rival Nexi. The Apollo deal comes with a five year partnership agreement which is likely to commit Worldline to continue selling Ingenico terminals to its banking and merchant customers. An extra €0.9bn is available subject to performance. 

Wordline made two important product acquisitions in Q3. 

  • Marketplaces – a 40% stake in Online Payment Platform (OPP), a Dutch payment gateway which boasts over 100 marketplaces and platforms as customers including eBay Kleinanzeigen, Marktplaats and Royal FloraHolland. Marketplaces account for about one third of European online payment volume today but require specialist support. OPP has sixty staff and its product set includes fast merchant onboarding, split payments, pay-outs, virtual IBANs and dispute management. Worldine has a call option to buy the remaining 60% in 2026.
  • SoftPOS – Worldine has bought a 55% stake SoftPOS, a very well regarded Polish softpos vendor which launched in 2019. Softpos is an existing Worldline partner but is also working with ING in Poland and Romania as well as Credit Agricole in Poland. The latter is through an arrangement with Elavon. It’s not clear whether SoftPOS’s current banking partnerships will be negatively influenced by the stronger Worldline relationship. Worldline has the option to take full control in 2024. 

The SoftPOS capability forms the basis for new product called Worldine Tap on Mobile which is aimed at all merchant segments but also as a white label through partners. For example, Worldine is making Tap on Mobile available on Zebra’s range of handheld devices. Zebra is a giant in the world of enterprise devices with over 10,000 channel partners globally. Many of these are ISV’s that will be interested in providing merchants a bundle of Zebra hardware, Worldine payments and their own software application.

SoftPOS has many transformational use cases but the one chosen for the launch video is not one of them. In this scenario, softPos makes life more difficult for both merchant and customer.

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