Lending Club Picks Up IPO-Breed of Investors

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Peer-to-peer lender Lending Club said on Thursday it has picked up the type of investors it would want when the company is taken public, after raising $65 million from T. Rowe Price, Wellington Management, Blackrock and Sands Capital as part of its acquisition of Springstone Financial.

Peer Lending Lures Yield-Hungry Investors

Lending Club, however, continued to put off answers about the timing or size of its seemingly inevitable initial public offering.

On Thursday, Lending Club said it acquired Springstone Financial for $140 million in cash and stock, in the first-ever acquisition of a traditional financial services firm by a peer-to-peer lender. Founded in 2007, Springstone provides financing for K-12 private education, tutoring and medical services and facilitated over $340 million in loans in 2013.

Lending Club made its first loan in 2007 and through steady growth, has originated over $4 billion in personal loans among 250,000 customers through its platform.

To finance Thursday's acquisition, Lending Club raised $65 million in a new equity round among T. Rowe Price, Wellington Management, Blackrock and Sands Capital. The company also raised $50 million in debt financing for the cash portion of its Springstone transaction, and it paid the specialty lender a further $25 million in Lending Club stock.

Regarding the company's newest funding round, CEO Renaud Laplanche said in a conference call that Lending Club has picked up a breed of investors it would hope to have when it becomes a public company. Laplanche called the fund managers "the type of reputable investors that we would want when we take the company public." Laplanche would not comment on any plans that Lending Club may have to go public.

"We believe that Lending Club has an opportunity to transform an important part of the banking system into a transparent online marketplace," Henry Ellenbogen, a portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price said in a statement.

"The Springstone acquisition is another step in that direction, and we are very excited at the prospect of being a long term equity partner of Lending Club," he added.

Valuation Doubles

Thursday's equity round values Lending Club at $3.76 billion, according to calculations by the Financial Times, a more than doubling of the company's valuation since the company raised money from Google a year ago.

A disclosure on Thursday indicated that Lending Club continues to record strong growth and has tipped into profitability.

Lending Club earned $98 million in net revenue in 2013, and a net profit of $7.3 million. Springstone, that filing shows, generated $17.3 million in net revenue and a profit of $8.6 million last year.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York.