Sources close to the discussions revealed to the paper that the Nets board met last week to decide on a buyer following an auction that has drawn the interest of the market. US firm Hellman & Friedman is believed to be in pole position.
Nets chief executive Bo Nilsson said earlier this month that Nets is seeing “considerable interest” from potential buyers, including other payment processing players as well as private equity groups.
Should the deal go through on the the reported terms, with Nets shares valued at $5.01bn, it would be the largest leveraged European buy-out in more than four years, surpassing the recent purchase of German pharma firm Stada which was acquired for $4.1bn.
It would also be another big deal in the payment processing space following US-based Vantiv’s acquisition of UK-based Worldpay for $10.35bn that was finalised in August.
The spate of buy-outs comes at a time when payment processors are seeking ways to cut costs and build scale as the industry moves towards digital payments and also when private equity groups and investors continue to benefit from low interest rates and cheap financing.
Nets was itself bought by a consortium of private equity firms in 2014 and was then listed in Denmark in 2016. Talk of a takeover in the last three months have helped to boost Nets share price by 16% during that period.