Cielo shares plunge after Brazil suspends WhatsApp deal

FILE PHOTO: A logo of WhatsApp is pictured on a T-shirt worn by a WhatsApp-Reliance Jio representative during a drive by the two companies to educate users, on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, October 9, 2018. Picture taken October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Shares in Brazilian payments company Cielo SA plunged almost 10% on Wednesday, a day after the nation’s central bank and anti-trust regulator effectively blocked the launch of a new system that would allow WhatsApp users to send money via chats.

Cielo had sealed a deal with Facebook’s WhatsApp, which has 120 million users in Brazil, to process the payments from the new service, a move that was expected to bolster the payments company’s results.

The central bank, however, said in a statement on Tuesday that rolling out the service without previous analysis by the monetary authority could damage the Brazilian payments system in the areas of competition, efficiency and data privacy.

Brazil’s antitrust watchdog, Cade, also moved to block WhatsApp’s partnership with Cielo to process the payments.

“We think the central bank’s measure is consistent with its intention to promote competition, especially as the regulator has been vocal in saying that it will not allow closed-loop schemes or exclusivity and that interoperability is essential to promote competition,” analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients, adding that the deal’s benefits remain to be seen.

“The partnership with WhatsApp has the potential to generate a relevant contribution to Cielo’s bottom line in light of the company’s currently depressed profitability,” Credit Suisse’s analysts added.

Eleven Research said the suspension is negative for shares in Cielo, but it still sees the company in a stronger position than its smaller rivals to weather the crisis stemming for the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier on Wednesday, Cielo said it would keep shareholders informed on future updates regarding its partnership with WhatsApp.

Reporting by Carolina Mandl and Paula Laier, Editing by Louise Heavens and Paul Simao