Athene takes stake in consumer lender Aqua Finance
Bermudian-based retirement services company Athene has agreed to acquire a controlling stake in the consumer-lending platform Aqua Finance in a deal valued at approximately $1 billion.
The stake is to be acquired from funds managed by Blackstone Tactical Opportunities.
With $731 billion in assets under management, Blackstone is the world’s largest alternative investment firm.
Under the terms of the transaction, New York-headquartered global alternative asset manager Apollo will manage the investment on behalf of Athene. Blackstone would also maintain a minority stake in the company.
Athene and Apollo have agreed to merge, with the closing of the merger subject to approval by the shareholders in the two companies, the receipt of regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.
The merger is expected to close in January.
Aqua Finance is a Wisconsin-based specialist lending platform that originates and services consumer loans, primarily for home improvement and water treatment.
The company has strong and growing merchant relationships formed over 30 years, and has nearly doubled its annual loan originations since Blackstone first invested in 2018, with originations expected to reach $2 billion this year.
Jim Belardi, chief executive officer of Athene, said: “Aqua Finance is an exciting opportunity for Athene to invest in a leading consumer finance platform, to provide capital and expertise to continue to grow the business, and to execute on our strategy with Apollo to invest in high-quality origination platforms.”
Rich Morrin, Aqua’s chief executive officer, said: “We are excited to partner with this new investor group as we enter the next stage of expansion for Aqua.
“I am proud of the significant progress we have made in establishing Aqua as an industry leader together with Blackstone and look forward to building on that strong foundation in the years ahead.”
Apollo co-president Jim Zelter added: “For more than three decades, Aqua has partnered with merchants to provide flexible consumer-lending solutions, and with Athene we look forward to investing in the business and supporting the Aqua team to build on this success.
“For Apollo and Athene, Aqua is highly complementary to our portfolio of diversified origination platforms, extending our access to quality consumer loan flow.”
Menes Chee, a senior managing director at Blackstone, and C C Melvin Ike, a principal at Blackstone, said: “We are pleased to have backed Aqua, Rich and his management team as they built a strong financial technology platform serving customers across the country. We look forward to continuing to support the business and its next phase of growth.”
The transaction is subject to the fulfilment of customary closing conditions, including certain regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the first half of 2022.