Payments infrastructure provider PPRO has raised US$180 million ($239.31 million) in new investment from Eurazeo Growth, Sprints Capital and Wellington Management.

This follows US$50 million in investment raised six months ago from Sprints Capital, Citi Ventures and HPE Growth; and an earlier US$50 million round led by PayPal back in 2018.

The payments platform-as-a-service company is now valued at over US$1 billion, says PPRO in a press release on Jan 20. 

SEE: PayPal enters China, but what about Southeast Asia?

The short runway between the two latest rounds was not initially planned, says CEO Simon Black in an interview with The Edge Singapore. “The investment we announced last June was on the radar of a wider group of potential investors and the interest was so strong, we decided to bring forward our plans,” says Black, who is based in the UK.

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Founded in 2006, PPRO powers international growth for payment service providers and platforms such as Citi, Elavon, Mastercard Payment Gateway Services, Mollie, PayPal and Worldpay. According to the company, PPRO processed over US$11 billion for its customers last year.

Crossing the ‘unicorn’ threshold was not a surprise to PPRO, says Black, who joined the company in 2015. “I’ve always felt, since I joined PPRO, that this was a growing opportunity and a big one. If you do that job well and act as a good partner, you will keep growing the value of the company. So it doesn't surprise me to get above a billion dollars [in valuation],” he says.

For more stories about where the money flows, click here for our Capital section

Black also oversaw PPRO’s acquisition of Allpago, a major provider of payment and gateway services in Latin America, in June 2019. Prior to the acquisition, Allpago reportedly covered 90% of the regional market.

According to a press release, PPRO doubled transaction volumes y-o-y in 4Q2020, expanded its global team by 60% in the last 12 months and developed new strategic partnerships in Indonesia and Singapore. 

While the company is based in London, PPRO has in Singapore its APAC headquarters, with a team of 20 here. In November 2019, PPRO appointed Kelvin Phua, formerly of PayPal, as its global head of payment networks.

Globally, the company hires more than 300 staff, and PPRO is looking to build out another location in Asia, says Black. This is in addition to “two to three” potential markets the company wishes to enter. 

“I am very proud of what the PPRO team has accomplished,” says Black in a press release. “Beyond securing the support of such prestigious investors and achieving a milestone valuation, we’ve enabled our customers to grow at record numbers during what has been a tough time for many.”

Lockdown habits

When countries entered lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19, cross-border e-commerce proliferated, says Black. This presented an opportunity for payments companies like PPRO. 

“From a consumers point of view, they don't think that way. You don't think, ‘I'm ordering from a different country.’ You just want to pick up your phone or your laptop and say, ‘Hey, this looks good. I want to order it,’” he says.

“We're now moving into an era of border-free e-commerce. The consumer doesn't care, but for the merchant, and especially for their payment service provider, this can present challenges, because each country has its own payment preferences. PPRO can help solve that.”

While the company declined to provide a breakdown of its volume by region, the APAC region is growing rapidly and is expected to become PPRO’s “biggest source of growth” within the next three to five years, says Black. 

Beyond e-commerce, Black believes there are other opportunities for platforms like PPRO as the payments space matures. “I use the phrase ‘online consumption of goods and services’ because it’s more than e-commerce. Often, when people talk about e-commerce, they're thinking about buying products, but consumers are also looking for other things, from paying school fees to government taxes.”

Even as countries emerge from lockdowns, transaction habits will stick with consumers, says Black. “They're getting more and more used to their online payment methods and they will gravitate towards those in the offline world post-Covid-19.”

“When the world moves out of restrictions and everybody's comfortable to travel, go to the theatre, or watch a sports game again; you will see yet another growth driver.”