America’s most valuable tech startup, digital payments processor Stripe Inc, has taken an important first step towards its stock market debut by hiring a law firm to help with the preparations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The 11-year-old company, which was valued by investors at $ 95 billion in a March fundraiser, has steered clear of this year’s scorching market for initial public offerings (IPOs), using private takeover bids to allow some of its investors and existing employees to cash out their holdings.

Staying private has allowed Stripe to keep financial details like revenue and profitability a secret. Yet it also deprived him of using his stocks as listed currency to help fund acquisitions and incentivize employees.

Stripe enlisted Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP as legal counsel for its early stage listing preparations, the sources said. There has been no decision on the timing of the stock market debut, and the next step would be hiring investment banks later this year, the sources added. Registration is unlikely to take place this year, two of the sources said.

Stripe plans to go public via a direct listing, rather than a traditional IPO, as it doesn’t need to raise funds, two of the sources said, warning those plans could change.

The sources requested anonymity because the deliberations are confidential. Stripe and Cleary Gottlieb declined to comment.

Founded in 2010 by Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison, Stripe processes hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions each year for millions of businesses around the world. Its client list includes Alphabet Inc’s Google, Uber Technologies Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Zoom Video Communications Inc. Early investors Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and the venture capital arm of Google.

Stripe’s meteoric growth could lead it to challenge Chinese tech giants Ant Group and ByteDance, whose valuations are close to $ 200 billion, for the title of the most valued startup in the world at the time of its IPO.

John Collison told Bloomberg Television in an interview last month that Stripe, which is headquartered in Dublin and San Francisco, may one day go public, but there are currently no plans to list.



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