Banking and payments processing specialist FIS has unveiled plans to carve out its Worldpay merchant solutions business, unwinding a $43-billion acquisition it made in 2019. FIS was last spring profiled on Insightia’s Vulnerability module and several months later reshuffled its top echelon and kicked off a review after facing pressure from two activists.
On Monday, FIS announced that it aims to make its merchant business a standalone company within a year through a tax-free spin-off. The separated entity will be led by Charles Drucker, the former CEO of Worldpay.
In a separate release, FIS said it had booked a $17.6-billion writedown on the merchant unit in its fourth quarter results. At the same time, the company guided to lower-than-expected revenue and profit for full-year 2023.
FIS shares tumbled more than 12% Monday in one of the company’s worst days on record. However, the stock was up 4.5% at $69 in morning trading Tuesday, giving the U.S. fintech a market value of $40.8 billion.
The news comes about two months after FIS made several changes to its leadership, appointing a new CEO and an independent chairman to succeed Gary Norcross, who had been the company’s chief executive since 2015 and head of the board since 2018.
Activist investors D.E. Shaw and Jana Partners, which had pressed FIS to review its business structure, applauded the governance changes, which also included the appointment of Bellevue Capital’s Mark Ernst as an independent director. D.E. Shaw signed a cooperation agreement with FIS as a result of Ernst’s addition to the board.
The two activists last year reportedly floated the idea of FIS walking back on the Worldpay purchase and raised concerns the U.S. fintech was trading at a significant discount to peers including Fiserv and Global Payments.
“We welcome the decisive actions taken by the company and believe separating the merchant business with Charles Drucker as CEO, increasing savings targets, and aligning compensation with performance are the right steps to unlock shareholder value,” said Jana Managing Partner Scott Ostfeld in a statement to media outlets.
Last year in March, Insightia’s Vulnerability module argued an activist could step in and push for a strategic review of the company’s non-core businesses to prop up its stock after several years of sluggish performance.