China's Ant Financial is in 'advanced talks' to buy London-based currency exchange World First for $700m (£550m). The takeover could be completed in a matter of weeks, making it the most significant acquisition of a UK-based fintech firm by a Chinese financial services company.
Sources close to the deal speaking to Sky News have said World First could be worth “hundreds of millions of pounds”. World First co-founders Jonathan Quin and Nick Robinson started the company in a basement in south London in 2004. It has since grown to become one of the country’s fastest growing fintech firms with offices globally. World First offers foreign exchange and hedging services to businesses and individuals looking to buy currencies and has transferred more $76bn for clients since it was founded.
Ant Financial, founded in 2014, is the world’s most valuable, privately-owned company with a valuation estimated at around $150bn following a funding round in June that saw it raise close to $14bn. The company operates Alipay, the world’s largest online payments platform, established by Alibaba founder Jack Ma. Alibaba has roughly a 33pc stake in Ant Financial. Its rapid growth highlights the increasing amount of investment made by China into payments technologies, with a growing number of the Chinese population adopting mobile-based apps to make purchases.
World First has been taking steps to become the first foreign firm to be granted a license that would allow it to operate in China’s fintech sector.