When Sifted last checked in with HR tech unicorn Personio in June last year, its founder Hanno Renner said he wanted to take the $8.5bn company public one day.
And while that day is likely very far off given the rout in global equity markets, the company is now one step closer to achieving that goal.
Personio is currently finalising a change in its legal form, from a GmbH (a German limited liability company) to a Societas Europaea (SE) — a European public limited company, which allows companies to carry out business activities more easily across EU member states. Market watchers say becoming an SE lays the foundation for an IPO; some of Germany’s biggest tech companies like Delivery Hero and Celonis are SEs. N26, another potential tech IPO out of Europe, is also planning to change to an SE.
“2024 will be the earliest possible date we can currently foresee” for an IPO, Renner tells Sifted, adding that he can’t be more specific on timing as it will largely depend on market conditions and “other internal considerations".
We chose the SE as it reflects our nature as a European company
“We chose the SE as it reflects our nature as a European company; our more than 8,000 customers are based in Europe. Now the legal form matches our business,” adds Renner.
Personio was cofounded by Renner in 2015 and is one of Europe’s most valuable tech companies. In addition to its headquarters in Munich, the company has offices in London, Madrid, Dublin, Amsterdam, Barcelona and, more recently, Berlin.
To IPO in Germany… or not?
The HR tech unicorn hasn’t yet selected a location for its IPO, but Renner says Germany “would definitely be an option” — if changes are made by the government to make listing in the country easier and more attractive.
For example, different voting rights classes and “modified regulations on profitability” for members of DAX (an index of companies listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange) would need to be in place for Personio to consider listing in Germany, says Renner.
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That would make Personio one of the rare tech companies — and companies in general — to list in Germany, where the IPO market is smaller than in other nations. 2018 was considered one of the most successful years for IPOs in Germany yet; 18 companies went public, in comparison to 210 in the US.
2022 was a particularly weak year for IPOs in Germany, with just four companies listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, according to data from auditing and consulting firm PwC. Personio will likely have to wait another few years for better conditions to return before listing.
An IPO would be a liquidity event for Personio’s four founders and its employees, allowing them to cash out on some of their stake in the business. Currently, Personio’s cofounders own 15% of the business, and employees own 15% via a virtual employee stock option plan (VESOP), Personio’s communication team confirmed to Sifted in December.