Blockchain startup R3 cuts fund-raising target to $150 million: source

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Blockchain company R3 CEV has reduced the amount it aims to raise from bank members in its first large round of equity funding to $150 million from $200 million and is changing the structure of the deal, according to a person familiar with the plans.

R3, a New York-based startup that runs a consortium of more than 70 financial institutions, now plans to give bank members a 60 percent equity stake in exchange for the funding, the source said.

More than 90 percent of its original 42 bank members have expressed an interest in investing, the source said.

Initially, it aimed to create a new company providing shared services for the owners, who would get a 90 percent stake. R3 would have run this utility for 10 years and retained a stake in it.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N and Banco Santander SA SAN.MC, both original participants, are not renewing their memberships and not investing in the deal, spokespeople said.

Morgan Stanley MS.N and National Australia Bank NAB.AX are also not participating, said the source, who requested anonymity to discuss plans that were not public.

Most other banks have agreed to the new terms of the deal, but R3 does not expect all existing members to join the round, said the source.

R3’s fundraising comes as banks and other large institutions ramp up their investments in blockchain, which is also known as distributed ledger technology. It first emerged as the technology underpinning digital currencies such as bitcoin but is now being adapted for use in more traditional financial tasks, such as transaction processing.

Other new companies are also looking to sell blockchain-based technology to banks. Competition among these startups has intensified over the past few months as they try to secure investments and deals with large institutions to provide the technology.

R3’s funding will be raised in phases over the next nine to 12 months, the source said.

Through its consortium and technology development lab, R3 comes up with ways for the financial industry to use blockchain software.

According to the new terms of the deal, the banks will also acquire a stake in the development lab, which tests new blockchain-based applications.

The group’s original 42 members have been given first dibs at investing in the company, followed by members of the company’s development lab. If the $150 million target is not reached, the round will be opened to other strategic investors, such as a technology company, the source said.

Since it began operating in September 2015, R3 has rapidly gained the support from the world's largest banks, with members including UBS Group AG UBSG.S, JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N and Deutsche Bank AG DBKGn.DE. So far they have paid membership fees to participate in the company's activities.

Thomson Reuters Corp TRI.TO is also a member of R3.

In a statement, R3 said it expected members of the consortium to change over time, as the scale and scope of the project changed.

Although Goldman and Santander have abandoned R3, they have investments in other blockchain startups, including Digital Asset Holdings LLC, which is led by former JPMorgan executive Blythe Masters.

Reporting by Anna Irrera in New York; editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra, Cynthia Osterman and Alan Crosby