Latin America is getting another fintech unicorn thanks to Advent International’s acquisition of a 51 percent stake of Prisma Medios de Pago, an Argentine payments company formed as a joint venture between Visa International and local banks.
The deal, which values Prisma at $1.42 billion, is yet another sign of Latin America’s growing prominence for global investment and the central role that fintech plays in the development of an innovation economy in the region.
Prisma Medios de Pago is the leading payments company in Argentina, and one of the largest in Latin America, with a full suite of services including point-of-sale hardware rental, e-commerce gateways, transaction processing, payments processing and electronic bill pay.
Its newest business line, TodoPago, offers peer-to-peer payments, mobile wallets, point of sale offerings, QR code payments and e-commerce payments to merchants.
Across Latin America, fintech startups have hit billion-dollar valuations and raised hundreds of millions as investors vie for a piece of the region’s growing e-commerce and financial services markets.
Brazil’s StoneCo Ltd., a provider of payment technology and services, is worth more than $6 billion after its October 2019 initial public offering. It’s a decline from the $9 billion pop the company had back when it debuted on the Nasdaq, but still represents a healthy valuation for the Latin American technology company.
Waiting in the wings are companies like Brazil’s NuBank, which reached a $4 billion valuation last year on the strength of a significant investment from the Chinese technology giant, Tencent.
At the time, company co-founders Cristina Junqueira and David Velez said the opportunity for financial services startups to achieve significant scale was far higher in emerging markets like Brazil than in developed markets, because the barriers to banking are so much higher.
Financial services, Velez said, has been controlled by massive oligopolies that have erected unfair obstacles to wealth creation for the masses. Nubank and other companies like it are working to change that.
An article from Fintech Futures last year outlined just how large the opportunity was for Latin America. In 2018, roughly half the population of Latin America was unbanked. In Brazil, about 40 percent of the country have no access to traditional banking services and its small businesses face a credit gap of $237 billion, according to a McKinsey study cited by Fintech Futures.
Investment in fintech has soared alongside the opportunity. Two years ago, fintech investment on the continent nearly hit $600 million, and public offerings like Stone and PagSeguro point to public market appetite for the sector.