Mobile payment co. Boku acquires Danal for up to $68M to add user authentication

After going public in the U.K. last year, Boku has made an acquisition to expand its carrier billing services, which let users bill to their mobile bills mobile content purchases from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Spotify and 152 other app and other content purveyors. Today, Boku announced the acquisition of Danal, Inc., a specialist in mobile identity and authentication services, so that it can offer more sophisticated transaction services and also to move into new areas.

Boku will pay up to $68 million for Danal, the company said. Specifically, the financial terms are described by Boku as a “reverse triangular merger” and include 26.7 million Boku common shares of $0.0001 each (“Common Shares”), $3 million of Boku warrants exercisable at 141p each and $1 million in cash, along with a deferred consideration of up to $64 million, “satisfied in Common Shares and warrants, dependent on Danal’s future performance,” which Boku also described as “challenging performance targets for Danal, thereby allowing both parties to share the benefits of efficiencies and growth.”

Danal, Boku said, will become a part of a U.S. subsidiary of Boku.

The market is not particularly excited by the deal it seems: the company’s stock has dropped by more than 23 percent in trading today. Boku currently has a market cap of around £168 million ($216 million), and it says that total payment volume in the 10 months to October was up 124 percent to $2.8 billion (versus $1.3 billion the year before), and monthly active users were 12.2 million in October, up 83 percent on a year before.

This is not Danal’s first transaction with a carrier billing service. In 2016, it sold a portion of its business, BilltoMobile, to Bango for $3.5 million.

Boku is buying the rest of the business left behind, with a view to building a bridge between the data that carriers have about their users and services that those users might engage with either on their mobile devices or through other digital channels. This could include expanding the range of purchases that you can make through carrier billing, but it could potentially also be applied to any service that either has a risk of fraud — such as financial or government-run services — or could use a carrier data to help authenticate the identity of the user.

“Charging purchases to your phone bill has proved a great way for the world’s largest digital companies to acquire and retain users, but has had fairly limited application outside digital content,” said Jon Prideaux, CEO of Boku, in a statement. “This Acquisition allows us to offer services that go further and to improve user quality for our customers while at the same time improving the mobile experience for users. Mobile commerce is booming, yet many tools were developed to support PC-based commerce. Danal has shown that MNO data can also combat fraud, reduce friction in signup and ensure regulatory compliance on mobile. These problems are relevant not just to our existing digital customers but also in other sectors including e-commerce, finance, transportation and government.”

Notably, this potentially could help Boku grow revenues in developed markets alongside the emerging markets where it is currently active.

Danal, based in San Jose, already counts financial institutions, government agencies and retailers as customers, including Western Union, BNP Paribas, PayPal, Square, MoneyGram, and USAA.

Boku said Danal  generated revenue of $5.1 million and a loss before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization of $5.2 million for the full year that ended December 31, 2017. Liabilities as of that date were $10.3 million.

The bigger picture for mobile payments are that while they continue to grow, they are still just around one-third of all e-commerce transactions, according to recent figures collected over the opening weekend of holiday sales.

Within that, billing to carriers is just one part of the overall mix, and after accounting for others in the transaction chain, it makes for thin margins. This explains partly why Boku would be working on adding new revenue streams. But in emerging markets, carrier billing is a popular alternative among users who may not have bank accounts and payment cards. This latest deal for Boku should help it in that area, too.