Latitude Financial was supposed to have the biggest ASX launch of 2019 on Friday – instead the debt company flopped again, and its execs lost millions

Latitude’s IPO flops once again. (Photo by Stephen Morton, Getty Images)
  • Latitude Financial Group has managed to spectaculaly blow its second attempt at going public in a year, after investors went cold on its deal.
  • The flop is despite Latitude bringing on former Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour to lead the company after the first failure, and offering him a $22.5 million bonus if he could pull it off this time around.
  • In hindsight there are likely plenty of reasons why investors didn’t bite, including economic worries, regulatory concerns, and increasing pressure on the consumer goods market that Latitude would play.

Latitude Financial Group’s launch as a $3.2 billion public company on Friday was to be the biggest of the year.

Instead at the eleventh hour, it announced that an initial public offering (IPO) would not go ahead — for the second time in just 12 months.

“Some investors have not been prepared to offer a price per share that reflects a fair value given the strength and performance of our business,” CEO Ahmed Fahour told staff in an email, as reported by the Australian Financial Review (AFR).

“For this reason, our shareholders have decided not to proceed with the listing process at this time – a decision that’s in the interests of our business, our people, our customers and partners.”

It’s a remarkable failure for the company and for its CEO. Having left Australia Post, with a whopping $10 .8 million golden parachute and with the then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s criticism ringing in his ears, Fahour was snatched up by Latitude. With one failed IPO attempt already behind them, it thought Fahour to be the man to get it over the line.

He had 22.5 million reasons to — given that was the number of dollars he would have received as a bonus had it gone ahead — but alas, there were also ample reasons why he couldn’t.

Investors have long-seemed dubious of the company’s valuation. This year’s IPO started with an initial asking price of $2.25 per share, or $4 billion. That was lowered twice more, eventually being set at $1.78, or a more reasonable $3.2 billion. But even at a 20% discount, there just wasn’t the appetite for it.

Combine this with the fact Latitude is for all intents and purposes a debt dealer working in a sector populated by a whole tranche of buy now, pay later upstarts. That alone is due to attract the ire of regulators, and possibly a consolidation of players.

This is all before you zoom in on the business itself. Latitude offers customers the chance to buy consumer goods now, repaying the amount over ten equal installments. The problem is that Australian are already heavily indebted, with households carrying some of the most debt per capita in the world. The chance to take on even more, at the same time as fears of a downturn prevail, isn’t necessarily an attractive one.

Chuck in for good measure that we’re spending less and less, even while a deluge of buy now, pay later options come to market offering to ease the purchasing pain. Then consider that its partners, whose customers are Latitude’s customers, aren’t doing all that crash hot in Australia themselves.

Take Harvey Norman for example, as its overseas markets have been helping offset its declining profitability at home. Meanwhile, Nick Scali warned this week that its half-year profits are due to shrink by up to a third.

In 20/20 hindsight, there were plenty of reasons investors weren’t charmed by Latitude’s offer, and not many reasons why they ever should have been.

Business Insider Australia has reached out to Latitude for comment.

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