Spac de Tidjane Thiam in talks with Mexican fintech Credijusto

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Tidjane Thiam’s blank check firm in exclusive talks with Mexican fintech group Credijusto and Latin American enterprise data provider CIAL Dun & Bradstreet to merge and list the companies in New York later This year.

The former Credit Suisse CEO has targeted Credijusto, a six-year-old banking start-up, because of its rapid growth among underserved small businesses in Latin America, according to people familiar with the talks, which may ultimately fail. to an agreement. .

The rationale is to integrate Credijusto’s lending capacity with CIAL data and analysis to make more loans available to small and medium-sized businesses, residents said. If the Spac merger is successful, Credijusto founders David Poritz, 32, and Allan Apoj, 31, would continue to run their business.

The two companies would merge with Thiam’s Freedom Acquisition I, a specialist acquisition firm, and the deal could value the combined entity at around $ 1.5 billion, split roughly evenly, the people added.

Shares of Freedom Acquisition rose 1.87% to $ 9.81 each in New York trading.

Thiam, a Franco-Ivorian citizen who was also head of insurer Prudential, raised $ 345 million for his Spac in March through an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange.

The merger is Thiam’s first attempt to reshape his image as a negotiator after his controversial departure from Credit Suisse last year amid a corporate espionage scandal. He is part of a wave of former big bankers who started Spacs, including former Citigroup executive Michael Klein and UniCredit director Jean Pierre Mustier.

The vehicles are shell companies that are publicly traded and raise funds from investors and then use the proceeds to research private companies that they can acquire and go public through a reverse merger.

Thiam’s Spac is advised by JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and the Broadhaven boutique. It counts François Pinault, the French billionaire founder of the luxury group Kering, among its investors as well as the fund manager Pimco.

Freedom Acquisition declined to comment, as did Credijusto and CIAL.

The Freedom vehicle is in the early stages of discussions with new and existing investors about investing more money in the deal via a Pipe, or private investment in public stocks, the people said.

In 2015, Poritz and Apoj founded Credijusto to improve access to credit for Mexico’s 5 million small and medium-sized businesses that generate half of the country’s gross domestic product, they told the Financial Times in an interview this week.

The lender has already raised $ 400 million in debt and equity from numerous top investors, who have been made aware of the potential takeover.

They include Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Steve Cohen’s Point72 Ventures, QED Investors, former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack and Hernán Kazah, co-founder of Latin America’s largest venture capital firm, Kaszek.

The start-up says its exclusive advantage over traditional banks comes from analyzing electronic invoices, taxes and other data, enabling credit decisions in hours rather than weeks.

However, some regulators and competitors have criticized this business model. They argue it could lead to high losses if credit conditions worsen and interest rates rise, while rapid digital checks without human oversight might fail to detect money laundering and fraud.

Nonetheless, Poritz and Apoj have achieved 250% annual revenue growth since 2015 and this year bought out established rival Banco Finterra, which brought its customer base to 6,000 and assets to $ 300 million. Credijusto has made deals with American Express to offer a corporate card and offers restaurant loans through the Uber Eats app.

The combined Credijusto-CIAL entity would be present in 43 countries. Once the Spac merger is complete, the plan would be to expand to other parts of the world, such as the United States, Africa and the Middle East, people familiar with the talks said.

Israeli entrepreneur Doron Cohen started CIAL when his family bought the Latin American franchise from Dun & Bradstreet about five years ago. It remains a partner of its American parent company.

Additional reporting by Jude Webber in Mexico

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