Skip to main content

Shopify Inc. is reaping the rewards that come with being a leader in online commerce, with the Ottawa-based company set to make money on a planned initial public offering from Affirm Holdings Inc.

San Francisco-based Affirm filed late Wednesday for an IPO that is projected to value the instalment payment provider at up to US$10-billion. As part of the paperwork, Affirm revealed that in July, it gave Shopify warrants to purchase up to 20.3 million of its shares for a penny each. The warrants were part of a transaction that made Affirm the sole provider of “buy now, pay later” plans to the thousands of U.S. retailers that use Shopify’s software.

The exact value of Shopify’s stake won’t be clear until Affirm completes the IPO and lists its shares on the Nasdaq exchange. However, Affirm’s prospectus states Shopify will own 5 per cent or more of the company, a holding that could be worth up to US$500-million.

Affirm was founded in 2012 by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin. The prospectus reveals that the company currently relies on a relatively small number of customers; instalment plans for buyers of Peleton exercise equipment accounted for approximately a third of Affirm’s revenue last year. Affirm has 6,500 merchant clients, while Shopify has more than a million partners, half located in the United States.

Mr. Levchin, Affirm’s chief executive, is counting on Shopify to extend his company’s reach. When he announced the deal in July, Mr. Levchin said: “By partnering with Shopify, the gold standard of commerce platforms for businesses that want to sell direct-to-consumers, we can help merchants seamlessly enable a pay-over-time option at checkout.”

In Shopify’s latest quarterly results, released at the end of October, the company said early trials of instalment payments showed it boosted online sales for merchants who use Shopify software, “through increased cart size and higher conversion.”

Shopify’s revenues were US$767.4 million in the most recent quarter, up 96 per cent from the same period a year ago, and the company’s net income was US$191-million compared with a $73-million loss the previous year. Affirm’s revenues in the most recent quarter were US$174-million and it turned in a US$45-million operating loss.

Shopify is Canada’s most valuable public company, with a $154-billion market capitalization after its share price rose by more than 3 per cent Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Affirm is the latest in a series of U.S. consumer-focused tech companies to announce plans to go public in recent weeks. Airbnb and DoorDash also filed IPOs this month. Affirm initially hired nine investment banks to lead its IPO, with RBC Capital Markets as the lone member of the selling syndicate based in Canada.

Along with Shopify, a number of venture capital firms stand to cash in on Affirm’s stock market debut. The company is backed by Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Founders Fund and Jasmine Ventures.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.