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African Unicorn Interswitch hires advisers for 2019 IPO: sources

[LONDON] Interswitch, a Nigeria-based payments firm, has hired advisers to resurrect plans for a stock-market listing in London and Lagos later this year, people familiar with the matter said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Standard Bank Group Ltd are among the firms working on an initial public offering (IPO), which may value the financial technology company at US$1.3 billion to US$1.5 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified because the deliberations are private.

Interswitch, owned by private equity firm Helios Investment Partners, has engaged with banks in recent weeks after a thwarted IPO attempt two years ago, the people said. The potential listing would follow those of two other major African and Middle Eastern tech company share sales this year. Jumia Technologies AG, dubbed the Amazon of Africa, listed in New York earlier this year, while Dubai-based payments firm Network International Holdings plc went public in London.

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Representatives for Helios, Interswitch, JPMorgan and Citigroup declined to comment. Standard Bank didn't immediately respond to a request for comment outside of regular business hours.

The dual listing in the UK and Nigeria echoes that of Airtel Africa plc, the wireless carrier that spun off from Indian parent Bharti Airtel Ltd in June. Bayport Management Ltd, a Mauritius-based financial services group, said last month it's also considering a share sale, although a final decision has not been made.

Interswitch pulled earlier plans to list in 2016 after the price of crude oil fell dramatically, causing a contraction in Nigeria's economy. An uptick in growth may accelerate payments between companies and thus revenues at payment-services providers. Another African-focused payments, loans and financial services company Bayport will be looking to approach certain markets for a share sale in 2019, the company said previously.

Helios is among several private funds that specialise in investing in African assets as the economic recovery taking place across the continent bolsters investor sentiment and infrastructure plans.

Yet foreign interest in Africa has been fickle. New York-based Blackstone Group Inc is scaling back there, with plans to sell its Africa subsidiary Black Rhino Group back to management, a person familiar with the matter said in February. And Bob Diamond, the former Barclays plc chief, is turning his attention elsewhere after struggling to get his banking venture off the ground.

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