RealTime IT News

$2.3 Billion Online Bank Merger Will Form Global Group

The megamerger of Internet banks first-e and Uno-e, announced Monday, will create a global banking group in a deal worth $2.3 billion.

Named unofirst, the new group will operate in Europe, Latin America, the United States and Asia. Initially, it will bring together first-e's U.K. operations, now being extended to Germany in a pilot scheme, with those of Uno-e in Spain.

The new group plans a rapid expansion of its financial services to other countries, using a war-chest of nearly half a billion dollars in cash.

Uno-e is owned jointly by the second largest Euro-zone bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and Telefonica subsidiary Terra Networks.

first-e is a wholly-owned subsidiary of enba plc, a Dublin-based holding company headed by an Austrian, Dr. Gerhard Huber. enba's shareholders include Apax Partners, Aureus, Capital Z, CGU, Intel, Invision, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, PaineWebber Capital Inc. and Vertex.

Under the terms of the proposed deal, BBVA and Terra will pay 291 million euros ($279 million) to enba shareholders while also putting in 362 million euros ($347 million) in cash to bolster the capital of the new company.

The deal will give BBVA and Terra Networks 67.5 per cent of unofirst, with shareholders of enba getting 32.5 per cent.

Dr. Gerhard Huber, who becomes chief executive officer of unofirst group, said the new company would seek an IPO "in due course."

"Such a move will be subject to our own business criteria and meeting necessary regulatory approvals," added Huber.

Manuel Galatas, executive chairman of unofirst group, hailed the creation of the new company as a significant move in e-commerce financial services.

"We will be able to use the Internet and new channels to create the world's first truly global online operation, offering a range of competitive products and services unparalleled in the traditional terrestrial business model," said Galatas.

In the U.K., first-e has a portfolio of 110,000 registered users of whom 50,000 are customers. It has previously announced plans for services that include low-cost brokerage, IPO dealing services and comparative shopping for financial products.