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UPDATE 2-Blend Labs valued at over $4 bln as shares rise in debut

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(Adds context on digital banking, background)

July 16 (Reuters) - Shares of Blend Labs Inc opened 11% above their offer price on Friday, giving the digital banking platform a valuation of about $4.4 billion in its stock market debut.

Digital channels for banking services have experienced an uptick in demand since last year, when the pandemic accelerated the shift away from brick-and-mortar branches.

The market cap of the company, which is focused on mortgage-lending, is now at least 33% more than the $3.3 billion it was valued at after a funding round in January.

Blend is a cloud-based software platform that digitizes banking and makes the borrowing of money or depositing cash easy. On average, more than $5 billion in transactions are processed through its platform every day.

"There will be a short-term headwind when interest rates start coming up, but the general trend towards digitization will help the company in the long term," said co-founder and head Nima Ghamsari in an interview with Reuters.

Rising interest rates often lead to high loan rates, which could hurt appetite for borrowing and dampen the volume of transactions on Blend's platform.

The company plans to focus on its core market, the United States, and has no immediate plans to expand geographically, Ghamsari said.

Blend, which has never been profitable, raised $360 million in its IPO, selling 18 million shares at $18 each. The price was at the upper end of the $16 to $18 range announced earlier. The stock opened at $20 per share.

It had filed confidentially for its listing in April.

The San Francisco-based company had 291 customers, including Wells Fargo & Co and Lennar Mortgage, as of last year.

Goldman Sachs & Co, Allen & Company and Wells Fargo Securities were the lead underwriters for the offering.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Amy Caren Daniel)