Network International, Interim financial results for the six months ending 30 June 2021

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Ongoing recovery from the pandemic across the UAE and all other operating markets, confident in meeting full year expectations

  • Revenues up 16.5% y/y and underlying EBITDA up 17.2% y/y; driven by recovery across all markets including the UAE, with the majority of KPIs now ahead of pre-pandemic levels
  • The value of payments processed (directly acquired Total Processed Volumes) on behalf of merchant customers in the UAE and Jordan showed significant growth in Q2: June retail spends up 45% y/y and Travel and Entertainment spends up 211% y/y
  • New merchant signings in first six months included the Hilton Hotel portfolio, Ali & Sons and Dubai Racing Club, with record numbers of new merchants signed in June and July
  • Contracted with the iconic Atlantis the Palm to provide regular market share insights into their hotel and restaurants
  • A strengthened partnership with Mastercard. Will be launching “SME in a box”, a simple, quick and low-cost payments solution to SME merchants in the region, allowing it to accept a range of payments through a mobile phone, with a quick onboarding process
  • Market entry into Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in progress with live operations commencing in 2022, ahead of the original schedule, with a significantly lower capital spend
  • Proposed acquisition of DPO expected to complete in Q3 2021
  • Confident in meeting full year expectations and now expect total revenues to be slightly higher than those recorded in 2019

Nandan Mer, Chief Executive Officer, commented:

“It is encouraging to see the business continuing to take strides. We are seeing a recovery from COVID-19, with the majority of KPIs now ahead of pre-pandemic levels, including the signing of new merchant and bank customers. We are particularly focused on accelerating growth in our Merchant Solutions business, which will be supported by a rejuvenated strategic approach and expanded capabilities.

I am excited about the progress we have made in entering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Whilst borders were closed during the height of the pandemic, we used our time productively and have re-assessed the approach, with much lower capital investment and a faster go to market plan. I am also very pleased to see DPO’s strong trading through the period, which remains highly supportive to our investment case, with reported revenue growth of over 50%.

My vision is to ensure our business becomes the largest, fastest growing and most innovative digital payments company in the MEA. I look forward to sharing more detail on this vision, our strategy, and medium-term financial outlook with investors at a virtual event in September.”

Record number of new merchant signups in the UAE in June and July

Leveraging its strong position and reputation as a payments partner in the region, Network International added a record number of new merchants to its roster in both June and July. Key additions in the UAE during the first six months included the Hilton Hotel portfolio, Al Maya, Ali & Sons (distributors of Audi, VW, Porsche and MG in the UAE), Shaklan Supermarket Group, an additional Carrefour Hypermarket, and Dubai Racing Club. The company also renewed its contract with longstanding client, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), to continue providing Issuer Solutions services for a further five years.

Partnerships to capture high growth segments

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to digital payments, reinforcing the company’s strategic focus. Network International partnered with both Adyen and Stripe in their provision of online merchant payment services into the UAE, working together to expand the fast-growing online market and grow merchant appetite for online payments. In addition, Network International also partnered with PayMate in the UAE, a provider of B2B payment automation services that supports both large businesses and SMEs, managing their accounts payable and receivable. Network International will facilitate the settlement of commercial card payments as an acquirer, powering PayMate’s B2B payments platform.

Network International is partnering with Terrapay, to bring African mobile money wallet acceptance as an additional payment option for their merchants in the UAE. This will provide merchants with yet another way to accept payments from international visitors, particularly those visitors from the Africa region.

The company also partnered with Commercial Bank of Dubai to provide its merchant customers with pre-approved business loans, which can be settled through its online gateway or Point-Of-Sale payment receivables, enabling greater financial inclusion for businesses in the UAE and allowing Network International to provide a wider range of services to its merchants.

Network International has also strengthened its existing relationship with Mastercard and will be launching “SME in a box”, a simple, quick and low-cost payments solution to SME merchants in the region, allowing it to accept a range of payments through a mobile phone, following a simple onboarding process. The business also added more capabilities to its digital product platform, which has been developed in conjunction with Mastercard.

Strong demand for data and information products with ongoing capability innovation

Network International continues to see strong demand for its developing data and information products, particularly amongst larger merchants and government clients. It signed an agreement with the Government of Abu Dhabi to support its statistics unit with the provision of historic and forward flow transaction data, that will help the Emirate to enhance its understanding of the market and improve economic forecasts. Network International also contracted with the Atlantis the Palm to provide regular market share insights on their hotel and restaurants, together with comprehensive performance dashboards.

For merchant customers, Network International has added a number of additional payment acceptance solutions which will help merchants drive additional revenues for their businesses. This includes QR code payments, the ability to accept MIR (Russian) and Rupay (Indian) cards, as well as a currency conversion option on contactless payments.  For financial institution customers, Network International will be adding a number of new services or capabilities in the months ahead, including the adoption of the latest security protocols that will allow card issuers to introduce biometric authentication for online card payments.

The company is also bringing easier acceptance to merchants and launching payment acceptance capabilities through a mobile app, which removes the need for a traditional POS terminal. This is an ultra-low cost capability and only requires limited mobile data, with the merchant able to use their own mobile device either in or outside of merchant premises.

Saudi Arabia market entry in progress

Network International’s market entry into Saudi Arabia is now underway with live operations likely to be ahead of schedule. Digital payments remain at a relatively low penetration in the Kingdom, representing only about 18% of total consumer and commercial payment transactions in 2020, providing significant upside potential as it moves towards reaching its goal of 70% digital payment participation and laid out in its 2030 Vision.

The company will commence services in 2022 with Issuer Solutions card processing and Merchant Solutions acquirer processing, which will be followed in the medium term with broader value-added services. The capital investment required for Network International to expand into KSA has been significantly reduced, reflecting its updated innovative technology approach, alongside the use of cloud-based software hosting services, which have only recently been made available in KSA, therefore enabling reduced data centre hardware requirements and associated costs.

Network International expects to deploy a total capital investment of under cUSD10 million, and following services commencing with customers in 2022, expects to see revenues building up to cUSD 50 million over a five year period.

A strengthened purpose as a responsible business

As a responsible company, Network International is committed to the highest environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in its operations, engaging in several community and environmental initiatives during the first half of the year. This included participation in a tree plantation drive in Jordan, under the sponsorship of the Arab Group For The Protection Of Nature; and blood donation drives in the UAE and Egypt. The company also supported Smart Dubai (a Government body) with the 100 Million Meals campaign for the month of Ramadan, through donations made using N-GeniusTM payment terminals.

Financial results for the six months ending 30 June 2021

(USD ‘000)H1 2021H1 2020y/y change
Revenue156,382134,20616.5%
    
    
Underlying EBITDA60,37251,50817.2%
Underlying EBITDA margin (excl. share of associate)35.3%35.3%0pp
Profit / (loss) for the period15,045(936)
Underlying free cash flow21,08318,11016.4%
Cash flow from operating activities24,76459,906(58.7%)
    
Leverage2.1x2.3x (FY20)0.2x
Leverage(including the funds raised for the DPO acquisition)0.0x0.0x (FY20)
    
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)   
Total processed volume (TPV) (USD m)18,96215,99918.5%
Total number of cards hosted (m)16.313.818.0%
Total number of transactions (m)459.8355.629.3%

For the full explanation of our interim financial reporting measures, and financial statements, please refer to the Interim financial results statement at investors.networkinternational.ae

Network International reported revenues of USD 156.4 million for the first six months of 2021, up 16.5% compared to the same period last year, driven by a robust recovery across all its markets including its core UAE market.

The company benefited from strong positive momentum across most parts of its business with the majority of KPIs ahead of their pre-pandemic levels in June. Total processed volume (TPV) increased by 18.5% to USD 19.0 billion in H1 2021 compared to the same period last year, with overall trends improving through the half year and international slightly ahead of expectations. Domestic spending trends however, have not consistently recovered to pre-pandemic levels, which is reflective of the varying pace of recovery in our merchants sectors, alongside continued competition, but is an area of opportunity to accelerate growth.

Reported underlying EBITDA was USD 60.4 million in H1 2021, up 17.2% compared to the same period last year. The company’s underlying free cash flow increased 16.4% to USD 21.1 million in H1 2021 compared to the same period last year. Its liquidity and balance sheet position improved, with leverage at 2.1x (excluding the funds raised for the DPO acquisition).

2021 Guidance

Given the ongoing recovery, Network International now expects to see total revenues slightly higher than those recorded in 2019. The incremental revenue will be used to support the future growth of the business, with investment focused on strengthening its market position in the merchant acquiring business, and in particular the SME and e-commerce growth strategies. Overall, full year EBITDA expectations remain unchanged, and the group is confident in meeting full year expectations.