SIBS, the management company of the Multibanco network, is on the radar of several players the financial sector, including the Visa payment multinational and several fintech, sources in the sector said. However, among the main shareholders of SIBS – the five major national banks – there is no consensus regarding the relaunch of the company's capital tender process led by Madalena Cascais Tomé, which was canceled in March due to the lack of interesting proposals.
Jornal Econômico asked official sources from Caixa, Santander, BCP, Novo Banco and BPI about the possible sale of part or all of SIBS. However, until the close of the edition, Santander only answered the questions, ensuring that it is not interested in selling its stake, as Vieira Monteiro said in February 2018. Altogether, SIBS has more than a dozen shareholders, including the largest banks in Portugal.
However, according to various sources from the financial sector heard by the Economic Newspaper, the Visa group will be one of the potential buyers to buy SIBS, if the shareholder banks were willing to sell or open the capital.
The possibility of growing by acquisitions was, moreover, admitted by an executive of the American company, in an interview granted to the Economic Newspaper on 9 May.
"The M & A activity, for us, is a sensitive subject. We can never speak in names. But from Visa's perspective, how do we want to be the best way to pay and be paid, if that makes sense in terms of competition, then we will certainly consider these options if they help us improve our offer, "said managing director of Visa for Europe, Antony Cahill, at the time.
As the Economic Journal has learned, there will have been exploratory contacts in this respect between Visa and the SIBS shareholders' banks. But until the closing of the edition it was not possible to confirm this information with a spokesman of the American group. In turn, also questioned about the interest of Visa, official source of SIBS replied that it is a theme for the shareholders, that is, the banks.
The multinational thus emerges as a potential strategic partner with expertise in the area of payments, something that SIBS looked for between June 2017 and March 2019, without success. At the time, the chairman of SIBS, Vítor Bento, tried to find a buyer for 49% of the manager of the Multibanco network, without success.
SIBS is a rare case worldwide because it is owned by the main Portuguese banks, in a system similar to that of a cooperative. It was this system that allowed the massification of the ATM network at no cost to customers, and today there are more than 12 thousand ATMs throughout the country. The sources heard by the Economic Journal consider that if the company is bought by Visa or another international group, this network will be rationalized, along with the introduction of costs for users. This was at a time when the issue of charging for the use of Multibanco returned to the agenda by the hand of the owners of SIBS.
Visa is making acquisitions to grow in Europe
Earlier this month, Visa acquired Earthport, a British company with a linked payment network in 87 countries. At the time, the local press revealed that the operation was around 300 million dollars.
As a multinational with a focus on payment technology, Visa will be interested in the applications and digital solutions developed by SIBS.
However, the multinational has admitted that SIBS's Application Programming Interface (API) system is still "somewhat limited". "Because it was built on the current ecosystem, in a way as an infrastructure that is controlled by the same entity. It's not potentially as open as most operators would want, but that's probably something we have to change over time, "said Paula Antunes da Costa, Visa Portugal director.
The director admitted that for SIBS APIs to become truly open, the company led by Madalena Cascais Tomé "needs to authorize more access operators."
Visa argued that it had already opened its API network even before open banking.
On this point, Paula da Costa and Antony Cahill revealed that Visa is "ahead of the market and regulation" and that it is "open to mergers, technological partners, and typical financial institutions on a global scale."
In 2018, Visa's profits amounted to 9.63 billion euros.