Banks seek to invest US$59m in blockchain startup R3

By The Business Times

Banks involved in the blockchain consortium R3 CEV have expressed interest in investing US$59 million in the company’s first funding round, less than half its overall target, a person close to the deal said on Friday.

R3, a New York-based startup, is seeking to raise US$150 million from its members and strategic investors to fund its activities focused on developing blockchain-based technology for the financial services sector.

It had originally sought to raise US$200 million, offering prospective investors a 90 per cent stake in a new entity it would have run but restructured the deal to US$150 million in return for a 60 per cent stake in itself.

It has invited its original 42 bank members to invest first and will subsequently reach out to the other roughly 30 banks it works with, as well as external companies, the person said. It plans to raise the overall amount over the next nine to 12 months.

Of those original members, 36 have expressed indications of interest through stakes ranging from US$3.5 million to US$1 million each, the person said, declining to be named because the fundraising is private.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Morgan Stanley, Banco Santander SA and National Bank of Australia have opted out of the fund-raising and are planning to leave the consortium, Reuters reported on Monday.

JP Morgan Chase & Co has not yet made a commitment to invest but does not plan on leaving the consortium, according to a person close the bank.

Australia’s Macquarie bank has also not expressed interest in investing but is looking to remain a member of the group’s blockchain lab, a division that leads testing of new applications, according to a person familiar with the deal. Macquarie declined to comment.

Launched in Sept2015, R3 has rapidly gained the backing of some of the world’s largest banks including UBS Group, Deutsche Bank AG and HSBC. Its blockchain consortium and development lab count a total of 70 members, who have so far paid membership fees to participate.

The startup is part of a growing cohort of young companies looking to help large financial institutions adapt blockchain technology to carry out financial processes, such as making international payments or settling trades in securities.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system underpinning the cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a distributed ledger of transactions maintained by a network of computers on the internet without the need of a central counterparty.

Banks are hoping that it can be deployed in finance to simplify some of their processes and slash back office costs.

First appeared at TBT