Ant Financial, a Chinese tech giant, is in advanced negotiations to acquire WorldFirst, a currency exchange start-up, in a deal that could be worth up to $700 million (£550 million).
Ant Financial is a payments group that is partly owned by Alibaba, the biggest internet tech firm in China. Sky News reported that it could complete the takeover within weeks. If the takeover were to be completed, it would represent the most significant venture to date by a Chinese technology firm into the burgeoning fintech sector of the United Kingdom.
The firm has been in negotiations with WorldFirst for months and some insiders informed Sky News that the deal could value the British currency exchange company at “hundreds of millions” of pounds. One even suggested that a price tag of more than £500 million was likely.
A takeover by Ant Financial of WorldFirst would underline China’s
Approximately one-third of the company is owned by Alibaba. Recently, Ant Financial was valued at $150 billion and the firm has indicated its intentions to go public.
It was not clear whether Ant Financial is planning to buy the whole of WorldFirst or whether its existing investors such as a venture capital company called FTV Capital would maintain a stake in the firm.
Earlier this year, Alibaba, an e-commerce giant that founded by influential businessman Jack Ma, inaugurated two data centres that are located in London. It signalled its first official expansion onto the shores of Britain.
The centres will power the cloud services of Alibaba in the United Kingdom, allowing it to effectively disseminate its services to businesses in the UK as it strives to compete with rivals Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
Earlier this year, it opened cloud data centres that are located in Frankfurt as it moved into Europe.
The move of Ant Financial for WorldFirst would further signal the intent of Chinese companies to move into Europe and globally expand their reach.