Church donations mobile app founder reaps $100m

Pushpay Holdings, the mobile payments app developer targeting the North American church donation market and US$100 million of annualised revenue this year, is in a trading halt as it wraps up a deal which will see co-founder Eliot Crowther quit the business.

Crowther's 9 percent stake is valued at $99.2 million and completion of the bookbuild is expected to be announced later today. 

Crowther says he is leaving the mobile payments app developer he co-founded in February 2011, for personal reasons to focus on his family.

The company is valued at $1.2 billion by market capitalisation, with the last trade in Pushpay shares before the trading halt on Monday, at $4.37.

The Auckland-domiciled, US-headquartered company started out as an outside-work-hours job for two young Christian New Zealanders, who reckoned there was a gap in the market for a mobile app for charity payments.

The company nearly fell over at the end of 2013, with a nasty moment when there wasn't enough money to pay staff. But at the last minute, high-profile Auckland investor Peter Huljich stepped into the breach, putting $2 million into the company and keeping it afloat. It listed on the alternative market in 2014 and the main NZX board a year later.

Early on, Pushpay's focus shifted to the lucrative mobile church donations market, starting in New Zealand and then expanding into Australia, the US and Canada. 

These days growth is coming from medium and large churches in North America, where co-founder and chief executive Chris Heaslip sees an opportunity to generate US$1 billion of annual revenue in the future.

Heaslip says the company expects the number of deals it's closing and deal size to accelerate over the coming year.

Pushpay narrowed its loss to $23.3 million in the year ended March 31, from $25.3 million a year earlier. Revenue rose to $70.2 million from $34.3 million, in line with its forecast. 

Heaslip wants to complete a US listing by the end of this year and is expecting the company to break even on a monthly cash flow basis by then.

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