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Jumia Surges on US Debut as Africa’s Amazon Goes Public

Jumia Technologies AG shares soared by 54 percent on their first day of trading in New York, as investors rushed to buy into the company’s plans to extend online shopping services across Africa.

The stock traded at $22.40 as of 12:27 p.m. local time on Friday, valuing the company at more than $1.7 billion. Jumia earlier rose as much as 71 percent after raising $196 million with the sale of 13.5 million American depositary receipts at $14.50 each.

The listing caps seven years of growth for Jumia, which was founded by 38-year-old French entrepreneurs Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara in 2012 and now has more than 4 million customers in 14 African countries. While the retail platform isn’t profitable, sales jumped by almost 40 percent last year to 130.6 million euros ($147.3 million)

Read more about how Jumia grew into a $1.8 billion listed company in seven years.

“This is about awareness,” Poignonnec said in a phone interview. “Millions and millions of Africans are yet to realize the benefits of e-commerce.”

The company has headquarters in Berlin and got early funding from German startup incubator Rocket Internet SE, while its biggest shareholder is MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest mobile-phone company. More recent investors include French drinks maker Pernod Ricard SA and Mastercard Inc., which put in a combined 125 million euros in the build up to the initial public offering.

Often tagged Africa’s Amazon.com, Jumia operates in countries such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast where the U.S. giant lacks distribution infrastructure and much presence. The company has developed a logistics arm that includes pick-up and drop-off points to combat vague addresses, and also lets customers make mobile-phone payments if they don’t have access to banking services.

“It’s an opportunity for retail investors to buy the Africa growth story, the story of a growing middle class,” said Steven Grin, managing partner of Lateral Capital, a New York-based investment company focused on Africa. “Rising per-capita incomes, an increasingly young and urban population, falling internet and data costs, surging mobile-phone penetration — these favorable long-term trends underpin the rise of the African online consumer.”

The offering was led by Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, Citigroup Inc. and Berenberg Capital Markets LLC. Citadel Securities was the designated market maker.

Poignonnec and Hodora met while colleagues at McKinsey & Co., with the former spending time in Ivory Coast working for the U.S. consultancy.

“E-commerce is becoming very big everywhere,” Poignonnec said. “We looked at the opportunity in Africa. It’s a big opportunity to help buyers and help sellers.”

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