Copenhagen based multi-asset broker Saxo Bank has announced that co-founder Lars Seier Christensen will be fully exiting from his ownership interest in the company, selling his 25.71% stake to Chinese conglomerate Geely Group.
Zhejiang Geely Group is a multi-faceted globally focused Fortune 500 company with revenue of more than USD $26 billion. Its core business assets are in the automotive industry, via Hong Kong listed Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd (HKG:0175). Other than its own China-based auto brands, Geely owns Sweden-based Volvo, which it bought from Ford in 2010, and the London Taxi Company which it acquired in 2012.Certain minority shareholders are expected to exercise tag-along rights as part of the offer from Geely, which is expected to own about 30% of Saxo on completion.
The parties did not disclose the price paid by Geely. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to be finalised by the fourth quarter of 2017.
While the agreement is technically a private one between Mr. Christensen and Geely, bringing Geely on board – as Saxo Bank’s largest shareholder (more on that below) – should help Saxo Bank continue its expansion in China.
Saxo Bank established a China office in the Shanghai Free-Trade Zone in September 2015, and has since then signed extensive financial technology partnerships as part of its Greater China strategy.
After leaving active management of Saxo Bank in 2015, Lars Seier Christensen set up his own investment firm called Seier Capital. Far from being a collection of retail forex or fintech firms, Seier Capital’s initial investments include companies ranging from a burger takeaway restaurant to a Danish hockey team to a number of online startups.
Assuming the tag-along rights are exercised, Geely Group will become the largest shareholder in Saxo Bank. Co-founder Kim Fournais owns 25.71%, a similar stake to that being sold Mr. Christensen. Venture capital fund TPG Capital owns 29.26%, and Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group has a 9.9% ownership stake. A number of Saxo Bank’s current and former employees hold smaller positions.
Kim Fournais, Mr. Christensen ‘s Saxo Bank co-founder and current CEO said:
Geely Group has shown an impressive ability to foster sharp and solid profitable growth in their portfolio companies, and it has a deep understanding of Scandinavian business values and culture. Geely is well known for its strong power of execution, compliance awareness and entrepreneurial spirit. I look forward to taking Saxo Bank to new highs together with our shareholders and employees. I am confident that partnering with Geely creates an even stronger foundation to capitalise on the many global opportunities and not least in the growing Chinese and Asian markets.
I want to thank Lars for his huge contribution to Saxo since we founded the company together in 1992. Even though Lars will no longer have a formal stake in the firm, I know that his passion for the bank lives on and I look forward to continue our friendship.
Daniel Donghui Li, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Geely Group, said:
We look forward to partnering with Saxo Bank through this transaction to expand Geely Group’s activities in the financial services sector. Saxo Bank is a trusted trading platform with a strong reputation following more than 20 years of successful operations. The bank is a proven leader in Financial and Regulatory technology. We expect to deliver group synergies from the development of financial services both within Geely Group and the wider Chinese market.
Lars Seier Christensen, who served as co-CEO of Saxo until 2015, said:
I am very proud of Saxo Bank’s achievement and our unique position as one of the strongest facilitators of global capital market access in the financial sector. I want to thank the skilled and talented employees in Saxo and my partner, Kim Fournais, for this amazing journey over the past 25 years. With a strong track record, healthy long-term vision and appreciation of our unique strengths, I am confident that Geely is the right business partner for Saxo Bank.