The owner of the New York Stock Exchange, Intercontinental Exchange, stunned many on Wall Street recently with a reported takeover bid for e-commerce marketplace Ebay. Now the group is aggressively trying to push its regulated bitcoin derivatives exchange Bakkt into the retail space with its latest acquisition of a loyalty solutions provider.
Bakkt to Acquire Loyalty Points Wallet Provider
Bakkt, the digital assets subsidiary of the parent of the New York Stock Exchange , Intercontinental Exchange (NYSE: ICE), has so far focused on providing institutional investors with regulated crypto derivatives instruments such as bitcoin futures and options. Now it’s heading into the retail market. On Wednesday ICE has announced that it has agreed to acquire Bridge2 Solutions, a provider of loyalty solutions, and that following the completion of this transaction, Bakkt will acquire Bridge2 Solutions in turn from its parent company.
The second phase purchase will be made using proceeds from a Series B round of funding which is expected to close later this quarter. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed publicly as of yet. When Bridge2 Solutions ultimately joins Bakkt, the company hopes the strategic combination will accelerate the development of its consumer app, which will provide digital asset aggregation, conversion and payments through a single platform.
According to its website, Bridge2 Solutions works with some of the world’s leading brands and powers programs for seven of the top 10 financial institutions. It operates 4,500 loyalty, incentive and employee perk programs for companies across a wide spectrum of industries. The company’s Loyalty Pay solution gives consumers the ability to pay with reward points both at the point of sale (PoS) in retail stores and in-app through digital wallets. Integrating with Bakkt may allow its retail partners to offer loyalty programs based on cryptocurrencies or tokens too.
“With the launch of the Bakkt app, we will, for the first time, offer consumers a robust platform to consolidate and use all of their digital assets, from crypto to loyalty points to in game tokens, in one user-friendly wallet,” said Mike Blandina, CEO of Bakkt. “Combining Bridge2 Solutions’ embedded relationships with banks and merchants and their innovative Loyalty Pay solution will enable us to launch new products that further drive loyalty and empower consumers to trade, transfer and spend digital assets in entirely new ways.”
ICE Pushes Into Retail With Ebay and Bridge2
Intercontinental Exchange owns and operates about a dozen regulated equity exchanges and marketplaces around the world such as the New York Stock Exchange. That’s why it surprised many on Wall Street when it was reported a couple of days ago that the finance giant has made a bid to take over e-commerce marketplace Ebay (NASDAQ: EBAY). On Tuesday ICE denied the media reports with a statement that it “approached Ebay to explore a range of potential opportunities that might create value for the shareholders of both companies. Ebay has not engaged in a meaningful way. We are not in negotiations regarding the sale of all or part of Ebay.”
Regarding the latest Bakkt acquisition deal, it might be able to frame the move as a new focus on retail consumers, especially young people that are more used to shopping online than investing in equities.
Hinting at the reasoning behind the Bridge2 Solutions deal, ICE noted that the global ecosystem for digital assets represents over $1.2 trillion in value and includes digital rewards, loyalty points, in-game virtual assets, merchant stored value, gift cards and cryptocurrencies. “Millennial consumers, in particular, embrace this form of value,” ICE stated. “Whether they are monetizing loyalty points from a favorite airline or trading skins for a video game, the Bakkt app will enable consumers to unlock much of that value, allowing them to trade and spend their digital assets freely, as they would any other currency.”
“Bakkt was created to help bring transparency and trust to the previously unregulated digital asset markets,” said Jeffrey Sprecher, CEO of ICE. “With the launch of the Bakkt Warehouse and Bakkt futures and options markets, the company has achieved quick success with its custody and trading offering. Bakkt’s second round of funding, and its acquisition of Bridge2 Solutions, will help accelerate the development of Bakkt’s consumer application, which has been a key part of our strategy since we first looked at this market.”
What do you think about ICE pushing Bakkt into the retail digital wallet space with this acquisition? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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