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By Loni Prinsloo
(Bloomberg) – Prosus NV and Tencent Holdings Ltd. are investing in European online-trading group BUX, giving the internet giants a greater foothold in the fast-growing sector.
The Dutch e-commerce group and Chinese developer of the WeChat app led a funding round of $80 million that BUX will use to expand its zero-commission investment platform, BUX Chief Executive Officer Yorick Naeff said in an interview. The Amsterdam-based company will also hire more staff, especially software engineers, and adapt the platform for different European markets, he said.
“There used to be a huge hurdle for people to start investing, especially for younger people,” Naeff said. “It was over-complicated. The app makes investing affordable, accessible and intuitive for the newer generation especially.”
Web-based trading platforms have been on the rise in Europe as more of the financial industry moves online and interest rates remain depressed, while trading in cryptocurrencies has surged in popularity. The continent is still a relatively untapped market compared with the U.S., Naeff said, and companies including BUX and Bitpanda are among those attracting investor capital.
Bitpanda, a Vienna-based cryptocurrency-focused broker, raised $170 million last month to make it Austria’s first unicorn, passing the $1 billion valuation mark.
Prosus, majority owned by Cape Town-based Naspers Ltd., invests in e-commerce companies around the world, with food delivery, payments and education among its favored industries. The Dutch firm holds a 29% stake in Tencent and the companies have a track record of co-investing.
“When I was a child, the way my parents would encourage me to build up wealth was through a savings account,” Prosus Ventures head of Europe investments, Sandeep Bakshi, said in the same interview. “If you do that today, you will lose money in Europe with the negative interest rates, so the average individual needs to participate in equity markets.”
The funding round makes Prosus and Tencent BUX’s largest investors. Others include ABN Amro Ventures and Optiver Holding BV.
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