Wirecard

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Wirecard AG
Aktiengesellschaft
Traded asFWBWDI
DAX constituent
ISINDE0007472060 Edit this on Wikidata
IndustryFinancial services
Payment processor
Technology
GenreFinancial
PredecessorInfoGenie AG
(Until 6 April 2005)
Founded1 January 1999; 21 years ago (1999-01-01)
HeadquartersAschheim, Bavaria, Germany
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
James Freis (CEO)
Thomas Eichelmann[1]
(chairman of the supervisory board)
ProductsElectronic payment processing
Banking
Card issuance
Mobile payment
Risk management
RevenueIncrease €2.02 billion (under question)[2]
(US$2.31 billion) (2018[3])
Increase €347.4 million (under question)[2]
(US$397.7 million) (2018[3])
Total assetsIncrease €5.855 billion (under question)[2]
(US$6.697 billion) (2018[3])
Number of employees
5,300 (Jun 2019[4])
Websitewww.wirecard.com

Wirecard AG is an insolvent German payment processor and financial services provider at the center of a financial scandal in Germany. The company offers[5] its customers electronic payment transaction services and risk management, as well as the issuing and processing of physical cards. In June 2020, the company reported €1.9 billion in cash missing.[6] CEO Markus Braun resigned and was arrested. On June 25, 2020, Wirecard filed for insolvency[7][8] and Michael Jaffé was confirmed as insolvency administrator.[9]

In June 2020 a warrant was issued for the arrest of Wirecard's former Chief Operating Officer, Jan Marsalek. As of July 1, 2020 the company was expected to be dismantled by selling off subsidiaries within a few weeks before they lose their remaining value and potential buyers expressed interest in buying parts of Wirecard.[10]

Wirecard Card Solutions Ltd. (WDCS) is a wholly owned subsidiary headquartered in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, with an e-money license which allows it to issue virtual cards. It provided numerous mobile payment applications and Wirecard's own mobile payment app, boon, which went bust on 26 June 2020, as the UK Financial Conduct Authority froze the activities of Wirecard Card Solutions Limited.[5][11][12] On 30 June 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority lifted the restrictions and Wirecard resumed operations.[13][14]

History[edit]

Founding and early business model[edit]

The company was founded in 1999. In 2002, when it was close to folding at the end of the dot-com bubble, Markus Braun injected capital and joined as CEO. He consolidated the company and focused the business model on providing internet payment services, initially mainly to porn and gambling websites.[15]

Stock listing and relation to InfoGenie AG[edit]

Headquarters of Wirecard AG in Aschheim (near Munich), 2019

The predecessor company of Wirecard regarding the IPO was InfoGenie AG based in Berlin, whose shares had been listed in the Neuer Markt stock market segment since October 2000. This company was active as an information service provider offering telephone advice hotlines on various topics.[16] When the shares became penny stocks following price losses, the stock exchange operator Deutsche Börse wanted to exclude InfoGenie from the Neuer Markt, which was prohibited by court in April 2002.[17] In mid-December 2004, an extraordinary general meeting of InfoGenie decided to transfer the non-listed Wire Card, whose core business was real-time payment processing on the Internet including risk assessment, to InfoGenie AG by way of a capital increase against investment in kind on 1 January 2005, and to rename InfoGenie to Wire Card. Thus, Wire Card became a stock corporation listed in the Prime Standard stock market segment through a reverse IPO.[18] In 2006, Wirecard was included in the TecDAX[19] and in September 2018 in the DAX.[20]

International expansion[edit]

Wirecard Asia Pacific was founded in Singapore in 2007.[21] In 2008, Wirecard introduced virtual prepaid credit cards for online payments[22] and in the following year[23] a fraud prevention suite for fraud detection that also uses AI and machine learning.[24] In 2014, Wirecard expanded to New Zealand, Australia,[25] South Africa[26] and Turkey.[27] With the purchase of Prepaid Card Services from Citigroup, Wirecard has also been represented in North America since 2016.[28] In the same year, the company acquired a South American Internet payment service provider in Brazil.[29]

In 2019, SoftBank invested in Wirecard.[30][31] With the acquisition of AllScore Payment Services from Beijing, Wirecard has also been represented in China since November 2019.[32]

Scandal and insolvency[edit]

In January 2020, Wirecard announced that a contract extension would be offered to chief executive Markus Braun.[33][34] But its long-time chairman stepped aside, and in April an auditor found questionable accounting practices. According to auditing firm Ernst & Young, a trustee of Wirecard tried to "deceive the auditor", resulting in the bank processor being unable to release the share results for 2019. In a statement, Wirecard announced that it is "working intensively together with the auditor towards a clarification of the situation".[35]

In June 2020, it was revealed that €1.9 billion was "missing". As a result, Wirecard's share value decreased by over 72%, and its CEO Markus Braun resigned.[36] Wirecard appointed James Freis to the position on an interim basis. Freis had only joined the company the evening before. A few days later, the management board stated that the €1.9 billion amount likely did not exist.[37] Two banks in the Philippines who were allegedly holding the money said that they did not have the sum and never did.[38] The firm's Moodys credit rating was demoted to B3 on 19 June 2020 before this rating was removed entirely 3 days later.[39]

A criminal investigation began on 22 June 2020[2] and Wirecard's recently resigned CEO, Markus Braun, was arrested the same day.[40] On 25 June, Wirecard filed for bankruptcy citing "over-indebtedness".[41]

Products and services[edit]

Wirecard is an international supplier of electronic payment and risk management services. Wirecard offered products and services in the areas of mobile payments, e-commerce, digitization and finance technology. This traditionally comprises the integration of payment methods, payment transactions via e-commerce as well as payment transactions at the stationary checkout (POS). In these areas, Wirecard currently works in cooperation with 280,000 companies (as of December 2018),[42] including Allianz,[43] KLM, Qatar Airways,[44] Rakuten.com and Transport for London, among others. The transaction volume in 2018 was US$125 billion.[42] In the first half of 2019 the transaction volume grew by 37.5 percent to EUR 77.3 billion.[45]

Mobile payments[edit]

Since 2015, Wirecard offers consumers the fully digitalized,[46] mobile payment-app boon., which works independently of banks or network operators.[47] boon. is based on a virtual Mastercard and runs on mobile devices with the Android or iOS operating systems. The Android version is currently available in Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland. In addition, boon. can be used via Apple Pay in France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Ireland[48] and Germany.[49] Google Pay supports boon. in France.[50] boon. offers contactless payments via smartphone and tablet through NFC[51] as well as online payments and peer-to-peer transactions.[52]

In the mobile payments sector, Wirecard has negotiated several contracts with telecommunications providers for technical services with regard to mobile smartphone payments based on near-field communication (NFC). The payment processor offers its partners a mobile card reader as a white label programme for the acceptance of card payments via smartphones or tablets.

eCommerce[edit]

In terms of acquiring,[53] one focus is travel and transport. Already in 2007, Wirecard took over payments and credit control for the tour operator TUI,[54][55] and in 2014 for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.[56] The product Supplier and Commission Payments (SCP)[57] by Wirecard is also made to measure the travel sector. It is based on the automatic output of virtual credit cards and enables electronic payments to partners and suppliers, for instance for commission payments. In this way international payments can be made via electronic transmission of virtual credit card numbers.

Since 2014, Wirecard has offered its Checkout Portal – a fully automated application for easily connecting different payment methods in online shops, with a focus on SMEs and virtual marketplaces.

Digitalization of the retail sector[edit]

Wirecard also supports high-street retail with digitisation; an example of this is the collaborative project with T-Systems.[58] In 2016, together with the WMF Group, Wirecard developed a mobile app which connects store purchases with online sales.[59]

Alternative Chinese payment methods[edit]

Wirecard has been collaborating with Alipay since 2015, to offer Chinese tourists a familiar payment method during their travels in Europe. As part of this, Wirecard has integrated this alternative payment method into the till systems of retailers such as Printemps, The Body Shop and The National Bank of Greece.[60][61][62] The payment procedure has also been integrated with retailers at Munich Airport.[63]

Since July 2017, Wirecard has partnered with Tencent to also offer WeChat Pay.[64]

Card issuing[edit]

Many companies worked with Wirecard to issue their own payment cards of various kinds. Some well-known partnerships include: Curve; start-up banks such as Atom[65] and money apps including Revolut[66] and Pokit; spending management apps[67] such as Loot,[68] U Account and Soldo.[citation needed]

mycard2go has been part of Wirecard Bank's portfolio since 2010. It is a prepaid card which can be purchased in stores and is ready to top up following online activation.

Controversies[edit]

Beginning in April 2015, the Financial Times blog FT Alphaville wrote a series of blog posts that questioned Wirecard's business model and criticized the company's accounting practices.[69] In February 2017, the German Manager Magazin wrote a lengthy article about Wirecard in which it alleged misleading reporting practices.[15]

Wirecard and the Financial Times controversy[edit]

On 30 January 2019, Wirecard shares plunged after the Financial Times reported that a senior executive was suspected of “falsification of accounts” and “money laundering” and round-tripping in the company's Asia-Pacific operations.[70] Wirecard issued a statement calling the report “false, inaccurate, misleading and defamatory.”[71] Wirecard also announced a lawsuit against the Financial Times for "unethical reporting" and a lawsuit for market manipulation.[72][73]

The public prosecutor's office Munich I in February 2019 launched criminal investigations against Financial Times journalist Dan McCrum because of alleged violations of the German Securities Trading Act (Wertpapierhandelsgesetz, WpHG).[74] The German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority BaFin banned short selling Wirecard shares on 18 February 2019 until 18 April 2019. According to BaFin, the measure is not meant to take sides in the controversy between Wirecard and the Financial Times.[75] On 15 October 2019, Financial Times published documents which it claimed to be Wirecard's internal accounting spreadsheets.[76]

In 2019, the accounting firm KPMG was hired by Wirecard for an independent audit to address the mentioned allegations. In March 2020, Wirecard claimed that KPMG concluded that no discrepancy was determined during the audit.[77] However, on 28 April 2020, Wirecard shares tumbled 26% when the auditor announced that it had not received sufficient documentation to address all allegations of accounting irregularities.[78] Later on 5 June, Wirecard's headquarters were searched by police as part of a criminal investigation into potentially misleading statements to investors by CEO Markus Braun and three other board members regarding the audit.[79] The company then reported on 18 June 2020 that €1.9 billion was missing in cash from the company's accounts following an audit by Ernst & Young.[80] Braun resigned as CEO the following day to be replaced by James Freis.[81] Over the two days, the company's stock fell 72%.[82] On 22 June 2020, Braun was arrested by German police under accusations of "inflating Wirecard AG’s sales volume with fake income."[83]

Allegations of involvement in hacking-for-hire scheme[edit]

A report published in June 2020 by the interdisciplinary journalism laboratory Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto stated that persons and organizations publicly critical of Wirecard had been the target of sustained hacking and phishing attempts by a hackers-for-hire group dubbed Dark Basin. According to the report, some of the critical entities, that included hedge funds, short sellers, investigators, and journalists, were "targeted almost daily for months, and continued to receive messages for years.” The report linked the attacks "with high confidence" to the Indian company BellTroX InfoTech which has a history of other hacking-for-hire operations.[84][85] U.S. prosecutors in New York and the FBI have reportedly started an investigation into the hacker-for-hire allegations.[86] Wirecard denied any wrongdoing.[84]

Financial data[edit]

Financial data in € millions[87]
Year 2013 (2014) (2015) (2016) (2017) (2018)
Revenue 482 (601) (771) (1,028) (1,490) (2,016)
Net income 83 (108) (143) (267) (260) (347)
Assets 1,431 (1,995) (2,935) (3,482) (4,528) (5,855)
Employees 1,025 1,750 2,300 3,766 4,449 5,300

Wirecard announced on 22 June 2020 that financial data for the previous years might be incorrect.[88] According to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the public prosecutor's office assumes that the company has manipulated balance sheets since 2014.[89]

List of subsidiaries[edit]

Wirecard is a global company founded in 1999, which operates across all continents worldwide since 2017.

It entered the U.S. market in 2017 following completion of the takeover of Citi Prepaid Services.[90] Wirecard took over the Brazilian company MOIP in 2016.[91] The previous year, in 2015, it entered the Indian market with the acquisition of the Great Indian Retail Group's payment business. Wirecard has been strengthening its operations in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa since 2014.[92][93][93][94][67]

See below a list of some Wirecard subsidiaries (not complete):

Subsidiary company City Country
Wirecard Bank AG Aschheim Germany
Wirecard Technologies GmbH Aschheim Germany
Wirecard Acceptance Technologies GmbH Aschheim Germany
Wirecard Retail Services GmbH Aschheim Germany
Wirecard Global Sales GmbH Aschheim Germany
Wirecard Communication Services GmbH Leipzig Germany
Wirecard Technologies Indonesia Jakarta Indonesia
Wirecard Card Solutions Ltd Newcastle upon Tyne United Kingdom
Wirecard Central Eastern Europe GmbH Graz Austria
Wirecard S.A. Bucharest Romania
Wirecard Ödeme ve Elektronik Para Hizmetleri A.Ş. Istanbul Turkey
Wirecard Processing FZ LLC Dubai United Arab Emirates
Wirecard Singapore Pte Ltd Singapore Singapore
Wirecard Payment Solutions Malaysia Sdn Bhd Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Wirecard India Private Ltd Chennai India
Wirecard NZ Limited Auckland New Zealand
Wirecard Hong Kong Limited Hong Kong Hong Kong SAR
Wirecard Africa Holdings Proprietary Ltd Cape Town South Africa
Wirecard Brasil S.A. São Paulo Brazil
Wirecard North America Inc. Conshohocken USA
Wirecard UK and Ireland Dublin Ireland
Wirecard Australia A&I Pty Ltd Melbourne Australia

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External links[edit]