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Klarna valuation crashes to $6.5bn from $46bn

Payments fintech company Klarna is set to raise fresh capital at a valuation of about $6.5bn, a fraction of the $46bn it was valued at just a year ago, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The $600mn deal, which is being finalised, will involve investors including Sequoia Capital and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala putting money into the Swedish company, two of these people added.

The dramatic decline in the worth of what was one of Europe’s most valuable private companies highlights the extreme reversal in sentiment for cash-guzzling, growth-chasing start-ups.

It also shows how investors have soured on “buy now, pay later” companies such as Klarna, which provide a form of short-term credit.

Only a year ago, Klarna was able to double its valuation to $46bn after a $639mn funding round amid a boom in ecommerce during the coronavirus pandemic. That funding round was led by Japan’s SoftBank, the investment group behind a disastrous bet in office-sharing group WeWork.

Klarna; its adviser Goldman Sachs; and Sequoia, whose partner Michael Moritz is also the chair of Klarna, each declined to comment. Mubadala did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the new funding terms.

The company was founded in 2005 and is a pioneer of the buy now, pay later business, which allows customers to delay payments or divide them into instalments. However, 40 per cent of its transactions are now paid in full through its “Pay Now” option.

The new valuation would be Klarna’s lowest since August 2019, when it was worth $5.5bn, and follows a series of efforts to raise cash this year, according to people briefed about the matter.

In May the company was tapping investors, including institutional investment firms and family offices, for new cash at a $25bn valuation. However, it failed to get any significant traction, according to those people.

Klarna also cut 10 per cent of its more than 7,000-strong workforce, with chief executive Sebastian Siemiatkowski describing 2022 as a “tumultuous year”.

A month later, some investors were approached with the opportunity to invest at a valuation below $20bn, according to the same people.

The reduced valuation reflects a wider rout in the fintech market. Surging inflation has lead investors to take a more cautious approach, stemming the flow of easy money which helped boost the sector to staggering heights.

Buy now, pay later providers have been particularly badly affected as falling discretionary spending, the risk of rising defaults and higher interest rates squeeze already tight margins.

In its first-quarter results, Klarna reported net losses of SKr2.5bn ($254mn), quadruple the amount in the same period a year earlier, while cash flow dropped from positive SKr7.6bn to negative SKr7.3bn in a year.

Shares of the US-listed buy now, pay later provider Affirm, which has partnered with big retailers such as Amazon and Walmart, are down close to 90 per cent from their high in November. Australia’s Zip has fallen more than 95 per cent since its peak in February 2021.

They are also facing pressure from competitors such as Apple, which is launching its own Apple Pay Later product in the US, and growing regulatory scrutiny over whether adequate checks are in place to ensure that customers can afford their loans.

In June the UK government outlined its plans to strengthen rules on the sector, including requiring lenders to carry out affordability checks and allowing consumers to take complaints to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Buy now, pay later providers have already taken some steps to allay regulatory concerns. From June, Klarna began reporting information to credit agencies, allowing other lenders to see data on customers’ payments.

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