Twitter CEO Buys Australian ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Afterpay for $39bn

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
August 2, 2021 Updated: August 3, 2021

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey’s digital payments platform, Square, is entering a $39 billion (US$29 bn) agreement to acquire one of Australia’s leading buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) companies, Afterpay.

A successful deal will mark the biggest ever corporate buyout in Australian history.

“Square and Afterpay have a shared purpose,” Square CEO Jack Dorsey said in a joint statement.

“We built our business to make the financial system more fair, accessible, and inclusive, and Afterpay has built a trusted brand aligned with those principles.”

The transaction is based on the closing price of Square common stock on July 30, 2021. This comes to a transaction price of approximately $126.21 (US$92.85) per Afterpay share, or a premium of over 30 percent to Afterpay’s closing price on Friday ($96.66).

It is expected to conclude in the first quarter of 2022, and Square expects Afterpay shareholders to own around 18.5 percent of the combined company.

“Buy now, pay later has been a powerful growth tool for sellers globally,” Head of Square’s Seller Alyssa Henry said. “We are thrilled to not only add this product to our Seller ecosystem but to do it with a trusted and innovative team.”

Afterpay will be integrated into Square after the deal is finished, and Afterpay co-founders Nick Molnar and Anthony Eisen will continue to lead their business under Square’s Seller and Cash App systems.

Molnar and Eisen said that combining with Square would enable them to further accelerate growth in the United States and around the world.

“We are fully aligned with Square’s purpose and, together, we hope to continue redefining financial wellness and responsible spending for our customers,” they said. “The transaction marks an important recognition of the Australian technology sector as homegrown innovation continues to be shared more broadly throughout the world.”

American businessman Peter Cohan believed Square overpaid for the deal and questioned why it was paying a premium of more than 30 percent for the Australian company.

“I don’t know how much Square is overpaying for Afterpay,” Cohan wrote in an op-ed for Forbes. “But whatever the amount, I don’t see how the revenue and cash flow from the deal will offset giving 30 percent of its market value in exchange for a money-burning business that will add only 4 percent to its revenues.”

However, it excited Australians and pushed the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) to hit a new high in the morning, shortly after the announcement.

The ASX closed 1.3 percent higher and Afterpay shares also ended the day up 18.8 percent at $114.80.

BNPL has seen rapid growing popularity in Australia, with a report (pdf) by the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) in Nov. 2020 revealing a 90 percent increase in BNPL transactions during the 2018-19 financial year compared to the previous one.

BNPL providers allow customers to pay their transactions in instalments without interest. Instead, customers are charged for late and missed repayments.

While the current number of BNPL transactions is still a small fraction of all payments, most people who take up the payment system are younger Australians.

In July, it was reported that Apple would soon launch its own BNPL system.

Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu