Blackhawk Network Picks Up Gift Card Startup, Retailo, For €50M To Bolster Its Reach In Europe

Blackhawk Network, the subsidiary of Safeway that IPOed back in April and which offers prepaid and payment products such as gift cards in North America and elsewhere, has announced it has acquired European gift card distributor startup, Retailo.

Retailo was founded back in 2008, and its investors include Wellington PartnersEndeavour VisionSeventure Partners and High-Tech Gründerfonds.

The price of the acquisition, which Blackhawk said was funded with “cash from operations”, has not been disclosed — but TechCrunch understands it is in the region of €50 million/$68 million. Retailo’s management team will be remaining, post-acquisition.

The startup, which will continue to operate from its headquarters in Cologne, Germany, but now as a business unit of Blackhawk, has deals to distribute gift cards at more than 40,000 points of sale In Germany, Austria and Switzerland — for brands including, Ikea, C&A and Zalando.

As well as distributing physical gift cards, via stationary trade outlets (such as supermarkets and gas stations), Retailo has an online distribution network for voucher codes (via SMS, email, social media etc) and also social gifting offerings including a b2b business.

Blackhawk Network’s gift card business has largely been focused on North America to date, although it has extended internationally — including to the U.K., France, the Netherlands and the Nordics. Buying Retailo bolsters that international presence by acquiring the distribution network it has built up. Blackhawk said the acquisition increases its EMEA distribution network to around 70,000 points of sale, as well as expanding its digital network offerings.

“Blackhawk is focused on international growth, and the acquisition of Retailo in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and a country where gift cards are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, is a clear indication of our ability to execute strategically to expedite that growth,” said Bill Tauscher, Blackhawk Network CEO, in a statement on the acquisition.

“Christian Lindner and his team at Retailo have built an impressive business, and the synergies between our companies in terms of retail best practices and digital services – to name just a few – have us very excited about the opportunities ahead,” he added.

Blackhawk will of course face the challenge of maintaining Retailo’s network, post-acquisition, and the relationships with the European gift card brands it built up.

Back in 2011, Blackhawk picked up a 1.5-year-old startup called Cardpool, a Y-combinator-backed gift card marketplace. But, the Safeway subsidiary hasn’t generally been very acquisitive. This year’s IPO has apparently given it a mindset (and warchest) to tackle larger acquisitions.

Competitors to Blackhawk Network include InComm and ePay.