Ding founder eyes IPO after selling majority stake to Pollen Street in $300m deal

Mobile top-up service provider brings in investor for first time

Ding founder and chief executive Mark Roden. Photograph: Bríd O’Donovan.

Ding founder and chief executive Mark Roden. Photograph: Bríd O’Donovan.

 

Private-equity firm Pollen Street Capital has acquired a majority stake in Irish mobile top-up service provider Ding in a multimillion-euro deal.

While no financial details surrounding the transaction have been publicly disclosed, industry sources estimate the equity value at about $300 million.

This means a significant pay day for founder and chief executive Mark Roden and his family who remain the company’s biggest shareholders. The deal marks the first time Ding has taken on external investment, having largely bootstrapped its way to success.

In addition to the Roden family, tech veterans David Hargaden, Ray Nolan and Dermot Halpin, who all serve as company directors of Ding, will benefit from the transaction, as will employees.

Mr Roden, who previously co-founded Esat Telecom with Denis O’Brien, has agreed a new “substantial investment” in the company he founded 15 years ago as part of the deal, as Ding looks to set itself up for further growth.

Established in 2006, the company provides international top-up and credit transfers to millions of customers globally. It recorded revenues of $58.5 million and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) of $15 million last year, with global transaction values totalling $650 million. The company employs more than 200 people and expects to take on additional staff following the new investment.

A former EY Entrepreneur of the Year award winner, Mr Roden led the company from its inception until 2017 when he stepped back and became its chairman. He returned to run the business a year later, however, and said he intends to stay on following the new investment.

‘Huge opportunity’

He told The Irish Times that Ding had grown by more than 40 per cent during the pandemic and is well positioned to expand further as the Covid crisis abates. He said that with six billion prepaid phones in the world and an ever-increasing demand for mobile data, there is “a huge opportunity to offer more products and services to current and future customers”.

“When you consider the fact that half of the world’s population are in so-called emerging markets where prepaid is dominant, the need for credit remains constant,” Mr Roden said.

“We are at an interesting crossroads because we’re not a start-up any more and for us to progress further we need to use this opportunity to invest in attracting more talent to ensure future growth and either go public or be acquired,” he added.

Mr Roden said he would ultimately like to see Ding becoming a publicly-listed company. “I would like to see us doing an initial public offering at some point as I think it would be a great outcome for everyone.”

Pollen Street’s investment will support Ding to continue to grow in new and existing markets, to expand its technology platform, and to develop additional products.

The London-based alternative investment management company, formerly the private equity business of Royal Bank of Scotland, has been involved in a number of local deals. Its portfolio includes Capitalflow, which was recently sold to Dutch fintech Bunq, and online auctioneer BidX1.

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