Virgin Group, Smollan buy wiGroup stake

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 30 Jan 2018
wiGroup CEO Bevan Ducasse.
wiGroup CEO Bevan Ducasse.

Mobile software firm wiGroup today announced that it has secured investment from two leading global companies to fast-track its entry into emerging and developed markets.

Virgin Group and retail solutions leader Smollan purchased a stake in the business for an undisclosed sum. This follows similar investment from Investec Asset Management in 2015.

wiGroup CEO Bevan Ducasse says the investment comes as the company is looking to accelerate its global expansion programme.

"Our presence in Europe and expansion into Australasia and emerging markets will be fast-tracked by leveraging both Virgin Group and Smollan's extensive global networks. As a business this brings us one step closer to realising our vision of simplifying and improving the way the world transacts."

Virgin, owned by billionaire Richard Branson, is an international investment group. It has grown successful businesses in a number of sectors including travel & leisure, music & entertainment, mobile & media, financial services and health & wellness.

Virgin also has investments in a number of sectors including over 35 technology-focused investments; spanning consumer internet services, fintech and sharing economy sectors.

The investment from the Virgin Group follows a successful partnership with wiGroup on the creation of Virgin Money, SA's new peer-to-peer payment app, Virgin Money Spot, which launched in January 2018 and allows customers to send money to friends in a simple, safe and social way.

Josh Bayliss, Virgin Group CEO, says: "More and more people are using their phones to pay each other, pay for products or take advantage of loyalty offerings. wiGroup is an established player in this sector and has innovative solutions in place which will simplify and improve mobile transactions globally.

"We are always on the lookout for innovative companies with an eye on making our customers' lives easier; we're delighted to be investing in wiGroup and we look forward to supporting them on the next stage of their business journey."

Smollan is an international retail solutions provider operating in five continents and over 450 000 retail stores worldwide. CEO David Smollan says: "wiGroup has successfully pioneered mobile loyalty, rewards, and transacting services for some of the world's leading brands. Its understanding of mobile as a transactional tool is perfectly suited to brands operating in both developed markets as well as fast-paced emerging market environments. We look forward to a strong partnership with Bevan and his team."

wiGroup growth has been rapid since it was founded in 2007, with year-on-year growth over the last number of years consistently being over 45%, and a growing African market presence in countries including Namibia, Nigeria, Mauritius, and Ghana, the company says.

It adds that in less than a decade, wiGroup has established itself as the largest mobile transactional platform in Africa with over 75 000 integrated till points accepting mobile payments, loyalty and rewards transactions. Through our software as a service, we've delivered mobile transacting solutions to leading international hospitality and retail brands who are looking to enable their customers to engage and transact via their mobile phones in a simpler and more rewarding way.

Ducasse says the business has recently established in Amsterdam, London and Paris, and is looking to the Middle East and Australia as key growth markets over the short to medium term.

"We hope to leverage our new partners' extensive global footprints and explore opportunities to create shared value between our businesses. In addition, our strategic focus on Africa - which will be home to one-fifth of the global consumer market by 2025 - remains in place, especially in light of the continent's high penetration and usage of mobile."

Smollan was founded in 1931 as a South African-based sales agency. Today, Smollan employs over 60 000 employees and associates in 24 markets across 5 continents.