Ant Financial Services Group, the world’s most valuable financial-technology startup, is acquiring U.K.-based money-transfer company WorldFirst to boost its presence globally.
The deal marks Ant’s most significant Western advance since the U.S. blocked its bid to acquire MoneyGram International Inc. for $1.2 billion a year ago.
Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed. News of the deal was earlier reported by Bloomberg.
Hangzhou-based Ant said Thursday that WorldFirst would help expand the customer base, reach and cross-border money-transfer capabilities of its Alipay mobile-payments network—already China’s largest and growing in other countries.
The two companies are “highly complementary,” the statement said, adding that the tie-up will better serve small businesses and promote financial inclusion around the world, including in the U.S. London-based WorldFirst will continue to be run by its CEO and co-founder, Jonathan Quin.
WorldFirst said it will continue to be a U.K.-based and regulated business with global operations, and will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Ant. The company, founded in 2004, specializes in helping e-commerce clients collect funds from sites like Amazon and eBay as well as process payments in various currencies. It has served Chinese clients since 2008 and facilitated $4.5 billion in transfers back to China in 2017, according to its website. Last year it rolled out a new localized brand name there.
Ant, created in 2014 after e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. carved out its mobile-payments business, raised $14 billion from Chinese and global investors last summer, giving it a valuation of $150 billion.
Alipay recently boasted more than 1 billion active users globally. That figure includes PayTM, an Indian payments network that Ant controls.
Write to Stella Yifan Xie at [email protected]
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