I had hoped to be able to leave the beleaguered BNPL sector aside for a few days. And then comes the following statement on 16 February from Zopa: “We are excited to share that Zopa is acquiring DivideBuy, bringing its point-of-sale (POS) finance technology and lending platform into the Zopa Group.
“The acquisition is the first step towards Zopa’s “BNPL 2.0” vision for responsible and sustainable BNPL consumer lending, with Zopa and DivideBuy bringing a simple and fair option for larger purchases that may otherwise take a customer months or years to save up for. We are delighted to welcome DivideBuy into the Zopa family.”
This news is just the latest in a busy week for the BNPL sector. It kicked off with some belated sign of progress in the UK as regards regulation and some sign of activity from HM Treasury.
That resulted in a highly predictable chorus of support from a number of BNPL players, expressing their support for regulation. Quite how many of the outfits will remain in play when the regulation finally takes effect, is another matter. But back to Zopa. This is Zopa’s first acquisition. It is a firm this column has followed with interest since its launch and the Zopa founder is one of the good guys, always an editorial ally and a past winner at the RBI annual awards. So, one has to wish the acquisition well.
It is wasting no time in using some of the £75m raised in January for the purpose of deal making. But seriously, this sector remains a licence to lose money and lose it quickly and will get worse before it gets better. One hopes that it has not used too much of the £75m on a loss-making BNPL acquisition.
BNPL in Australia – on its knees
Meantime, arguably, a much more significant BNPL event is occurring in Australia. As noted on many occasions in this column, BNPL in Australia is collapsing around its ears. Laybuy and Zebit have de-listed from the ASX. Openpay has called in receivers. Klarna losses in Australia rose four-fold in 2022. Quite why Klarna remains in Australia is a mystery. And now Westpac is taking on the struggling BNPL outfits with its own product.
Specifically, Westpac is adding BNPL features to an existing and viable product. Its BNPL offering allows existing credit card customers to access their limit and repay in instalments from their linked bank account.
Moreover, the new BNPL feature complies with the National Consumer Credit Protection Act and requires no arbitrage.
The new BNPL digital card also attracts benefits from the linked credit card such as loyalty points.
Good news then for Westpac customers, who want to use BNPL. Good news also for merchants, who need lose no sleep over dealing with Westpac. But for merchants signed up to some of the monolines..there has to be concern that they could wind up as an unsecured creditor when the next outfit goes the way of Openpay.