EMEA Daily: UK Digital Bank Monzo Snags $500M at $4.5B Valuation; Amazon to Appeal $1.3B Italy Antitrust Case

EMEA Daily: Monzo Snags $500M at $4.5B Valuation

In today’s top Europe, Middle East and Africa news, U.K. digital bank Monzo has snagged $500 million at a $4.5 billion valuation, and Amazon plans its appeal against a $1.3 billion Italy antitrust case. Plus, Danish unicorn Pleo targets EU expansion after nearly tripling valuation, Egypt’s buy now, pay later (BNPL) firm Sympl raises $6 million, and ConnexPay nets $20 million to expand in Europe.

UK Digital Bank Monzo Raises $500M at $4.5B Valuation as it Readies for Crypto

U.K. challenger bank Monzo is raising more than $500 million (£377m) at a valuation of $4.5 billion (£3.4bn) as it gets ready to take a deeper dive into cryptocurrency trading and further evolve its BNPL product.

The first part of the funding closed with $480 million (£360 million), Monzo said in the community forum on its website, and the remainder of the round is anticipated to close in the coming weeks.

Amazon Plans Appeal Following $1.3B Fine in Italian Antitrust Case

Amazon said it would appeal a $1.3 billion fine from Italy’s antitrust regulator after the eCommerce giant was found to favor third-party sellers that use its logistics services, according to a statement from the Italian Competition Authority (ICA) on Thursday (Dec. 9).

In addition to the fine, the watchdog ordered Amazon to offer listings from third-party sellers that were fair and nondiscriminatory. A trustee will be appointed to oversee the listings.

Danish Unicorn Pleo Targets “Massive” Europe Expansion After Snagging $200M At A $4.7B Valuation 

Business services startup Pleo, which offers expense management tools and smart company cards for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has secured $200 million in a Series C round at a $4.7 billion valuation, nearly triple its previous value.

The Danish startup previously joined the unicorn club in July after it raised $150 million in a round led by Bain Capital Ventures and Thrive Capital, reaching a valuation of $1.7 billion and bringing its total funding to $350 million.

Worldline and Joom Join Forces to Offer More Payment Choices in Russia

European payments and transaction platform Worldline has joined forces with eCommerce marketplace and shopping app Joom to expand payment offerings in Russia, according to a Thursday (Dec. 9) press release.

As part of the partnership, online European retailers and customers in Russia will benefit via more payment choices using the Joom app, while Joom has implemented Worldline’s Russian Payments Solution — a suite of products created in 2018 — to respond to the country’s digital commerce and payment preferences.

Buy Now, Pay Later Catches on in Egypt With $6M Investment in Sympl

There has been a BNPL service boom in many countries, thanks in part to the pandemic-driven financial strains many individuals and families are facing. Rising inflation has put further pressure on consumer finances in Egypt, and the ability to spread payments over several installments is rapidly catching on with shoppers.

It then comes as no surprise that since its launch five months ago, Egyptian FinTech Sympl has been growing in popularity and attracting investors in the process.

Kenya’s Digital Banking Startup Kwara Raises $4M Seed Funding to Launch Credit Union

Digital banking startup Kwara raised $4 million in a seed funding round to further develop its neobank app in Kenya and turn traditional savings cooperatives into modern digital banks, according to a press release on Thursday (Dec. 9).

The round was led by Breega, with participation from SoftBank Vision Fund Emerge, Finca Ventures, New General Market Partners and Globivest, among others.

BNPL Under Global Regulatory Scrutiny, With UK as Likely Frontrunner

BNPL instruments offered by companies such as Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay are becoming so widely used that it was only a matter of time before regulators decided to look closely at these products, which are usually unregulated.

In this regard, the United Kingdom may be the first country to enact new regulations for BNPL in 2022, bringing legal certainty to companies and more protection for consumers.

EU Gig Workers Could Be Reclassified as Employees

Gig workers in Europe, including those working for Just Eat, Uber Eats, Delivery Hero and Deliveroo, could be reclassified as employees under a new EU initiative, the European Commission (EC) said Thursday (Dec. 9). The proposal could also require that digital platform companies give up some control over workers to make them truly self-employed.

Visa, Yokoy Collaborate on Virtual B2B Debit Card 

Spend management platform Yokoy has collaborated with Visa on a new debit card for businesses for companies operating in Europe.

The company, which has offices in Zurich, Munich and Vienna, announced the card launch on its blog Thursday (Dec. 9), saying its platform connects the card to spend management software and enterprise resource planning systems.

Payments Gateway ConnexPay Nets $20M to Expand in Europe, Online

Payments gateway ConnexPay raised $20 million in a Series B funding round led by card issuing platform Marqeta, according to a press release emailed to PYMNTS on Thursday (Dec. 9).

A Marqeta customer since 2018, ConnexPay links acceptance and issuance for marketplace companies and commerce intermediaries. The fresh infusion of capital brings the company’s total fundraising to $35 million.

UK Takes Steps to Protect Cash, Reduce Consumer Borrowing and Support FinTech Growth

A December 2021 report published by Her Majesty’s Treasury and the U.K.’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has outlined measures that will help boost financial inclusion and financial capability for more people in the U.K.

The report states that these measures will help people move beyond “the basic necessity of being able to open your first bank account, to accessing credit, insurance, and the right mortgage products at an affordable price, and when planning for retirement.”

Uber Subsidiary Careem Launches in UAE with Fast Grocery Delivery

Uber subsidiary Careem is launching a rapid grocery delivery service in Dubai by tapping the fast-growing dark store sector.

These dark stores combine warehouse infrastructure with a supermarket concept that isn’t open to the public but are open to online ordering and delivery services. “Our true competitor is the offline supermarket,” Chase Lario, head of grocery at Careem, told CNBC.

Klarna Debuts Browser Extension for Online Stores

BNPL platform Klarna debuted a browser extension Thursday (Dec. 9) that will allow customers to use the company’s flexible payment options on their desktop computers at all online stores, even those that aren’t Klarna partners.

The browser extension had been in beta testing with more than 100,000 shoppers before its official launch. Desktop shopping comprises almost one-third of all eCommerce traffic and 44% of online orders come through a desktop, Klarna said.

Farfetch Acquires Luxury Reseller Luxclusif

British-Portuguese luxury retail platform Farfetch has acquired resale platform Luxclusif for an undisclosed sum, Farfetch announced Thursday (Dec. 9).

The deal gives Farfetch control of Luxclusif’s technology platform, and all Luxclusif employees will join Farfetch, giving the parent company a stronger foothold in the resale market.

Israeli Supermarket Machsanei Hashuk Deploys WalkOut Smart Cart

Israeli supermarket chain Machsanei Hashuk is rolling out fully autonomous checkout in all 62 of its stores as soon as next month through an agreement with WalkOut.

More than 60% of shoppers prefer to buy brands that have physical locations, but more than 70% of shoppers say they get frustrated standing in line to check out and that detracts from their shopping experiences.