'Buy now, pay later' company launched by PayPal co-founder doubles in value on Nasdaq debut

Affirm now valued at $23bn after raising $1.2bn through market listing

Shares of Affirm Holdings, founded by PayPal Holdings' co-founder Max Levchin, almost doubled in their Nasdaq debut on Wednesday, valuing the US provider of instalment loans to online shoppers at over $23 billion.

Affirm's shares ended their first day's trading at $97.24 apiece, a 98 per cent spike from its IPO price of $49. It raised $1.2bn in the offering, with its pricing coming in above the target range Affirm had set.

"We have gotten to the point of the journey where we’re on the precipice of becoming a known brand among both the investor community, and consumers and merchants. Being publicly traded is helpful in that regard," Mr Levchin said in a telephone interview.

At least eight US companies were scheduled to price IPOs this week, looking to raise more than $5bn in total in what was expected to be the biggest week for listings in more than five years.

The soaring debut for Affirm and other recently listed companies has led to criticism about how investment banks price shares in an IPO.

"Ultimately what happens tomorrow at closing or the day after or a week after will be a total footnote a week from now. If I am to be judged by a share price, consider giving us quarters and years of delivering our mission," Mr Levchin said, speaking before the stock had started trading.

Venture capital-backed Affirm was founded in 2012 to offer small loans to people without credit histories or savings accounts. Partnering with over 6,500 merchants including Shopify and Peleton, Affirm provides interest-free payment options, as well as personal loans and savings accounts. It recently expanded to Canada through the acquisition of PayBright.

Affirm has been benefitting from the rapid adoption of e-commerce during the pandemic. It reported $174 million in revenue for the September quarter, up about 98 per cent year-on-year, with a loss of $15.3m.

Jeremy Liew, a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners and an early investor in Affirm, believes the company can keep its momentum in a post-pandemic world.

"Affirm has a lot of partners in the travel industry who are likely to see a strong rebound after the vaccines are widely distributed. It's also a partner with Walmart so we're going to see a pick up in in-store shopping," said Mr Liew.

Other investors in the company include Peter Thiel's Founder Fund, Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC, venture capital firm Spark Capital and Fidelity Investments.