We’re not going to start off this blog with any more references to Visa’s famous, “Everywhere you want to be” slogan, as we did last week. But it seems that Visa is indeed everywhere, given the announcement it made on February 11. No, not another tool for developers like the one we’ve already talked about. This time, Visa disclosed in an SEC filing that it now owns a nearly 10 percent (9.99 percent, to be exact) stake in Square’s Class A shares. Shares of Square rose by almost 10 percent after this news broke, but the surge was temporary.
This is not big news in and of itself: Visa said in a statement that it had not purchased any additional shares of Square since the latter’s IPO in November, 2015. About four-and-a-half years prior to that, it had purchased a stake in Square for an undisclosed amount. The significant piece of information here is that given its stake in Square, Visa is now the second-largest owner of Square’s Class A shares—behind only mutual fund powerhouse Capital Research & Management.
Square clearly needs a shot in the arm, which it appears Visa is able to give: After strong revenue growth (about 54 percent) that followed the IPO, saw an adjusted EBITDA for 2015 of negative $67.74 million. In addition to the fact that the IPO did not provide the breadth of financial infusion it had hoped, Square was also sucker-punched by Starbucks, which had been one of its investors but has opted not to renew the processing agreement it signed with the mobile company three years ago. That agreement expires in the third quarter of 2016.
Then, there are Square’s competitive woes. Visa itself, along with MasterCard, provides significant competition for Square, as do the likes of First Data and PayPal. Also vying for a share of the increasingly crowded market in which Square plays are Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, all of which are looking to carve out a larger piece of the pie. Apple reportedly is considering leveraging ApplePay to launch a peer-to-peer money transfer service that could give Square’s Cash and PayPal’s Venmo a run for their money.
At the same time, Visa obviously wants to increase its own presence on the mobile side of the payments business. Getting closer to Square could conceivably be a way for it to do just that, especially because it would give the card network a leg up on MasterCard. Visa reportedly will unveil new payment technologies at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona later this month.
This could all be the start of something big—a new “shape,” if you’ll pardon the pun, for Square and Visa alike.