• Nigerian payments processor said to be valued at $1 billion
  • Africa-focused buyout firm bought stake in company in 2010

Helios Investment Partners, an Africa-focused private equity firm, is preparing to sell Nigerian payments-processing group Interswitch Ltd. in a deal that could value the company at more than $1 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The buyout firm is working with Citigroup Inc. to run a sale process for Interswitch, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Helios paid $92 million for a 52 percent stake in Interswitch in 2010, according to its website. 

The company, which processes payments for banks and owns a brand of debit card in Nigeria, is set to attract strong interest from financial sponsors and rivals, the people said. Bloomberg previously reported the company was exploring a dual listing through an initial public offering in London and Lagos.

The company is considering several strategic options, including an IPO, and no final decision has been made, Interswitch said in an e-mailed statement. A spokesman for Helios declined to comment, while representatives for Citigroup didn’t reply to an e-mail request seeking comment.

Absa-Edcon

A sale of Interswitch at that valuation would be one of the few exits of an Africa-based business by a financial sponsor at a valuation of more than $1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Barclays Plc’s Absa unit paid Bain Capital $1.2 billion for South African retailer Edcon’s private label store cards in 2012.

The payments-processing industry is consolidating as the increasing use of e-commerce makes the sector a structural growth market, according to Morgan Stanley. Global Payments Inc. agreed to buy Heartland Payment Systems Inc. for $4.3 billion in December, while buyout firms Advent International and Bain Capital optedfor an IPO of Worldpay Group Plc on the London Stock Exchange after rebuffing buyout offers from suitors including French peer Ingenico Group SA.

Interswitch, which was founded in 2002 by Chief Executive Officer Mitchell Elegbe, 43, owns Verve, the largest debit card provider in Nigeria, according to its website. The firm also offers services including e-billing and payment collections.

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