Ant Financial Acquires UK Currency Exchange Worldfirst

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Ant Financial has agreed with a deal to acquire Worldfirst, a currency exchange in the United Kingdom. The move is believed to solidify the presence of the company outside of China.

The deal comes after an effort by Ant Financial to acquire Moneygram, a remittances firm in the United States, was blocked by US regulators in 2018. They cited some national security concerns.

Worldfirst was said to be valued at approximately $700 million (£547.9 million). According to multiple media reports, last month, it shut down its US arm. Ant Financial did not reveal the financial terms of the said transaction.

Ant Financial is an affiliate of Alibaba, the Chinese tech giant with which it runs the Alipay, the successful payments platform. In reports that were published last summer, the company was last valued at $150 billion.

Jonathan Quin, the chief executive of Worldfirst, is said to have informed its clients through a letter that the company “will continue to operate as a UK-headquartered and regulated business with global operations,” despite already being a wholly-owned entity of Ant Financial. Quin will continue to be at the helm of Worldfirst after the completion of the transaction.

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, has been increasingly expanding into Western countries. He placed his focus on technology by launching Alipay in places that are popular with Chinese tourists. Last year, the cloud services arm of Alibaba opened several data centres in the United Kingdom, as it sizes up to rivals such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services in the battle for sector domination.

Last year, Ma was named as the richest man in China. Currently, he is in the nineteenth place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index having a total net worth of $40.5 billiion.

Last quarter, the revenue growth of Alibaba slowed to its weakest pace in three years. It comes as the ongoing trade dispute between China and the United States and a general slowdown in the region weighed heavily on the busiest period of the year of the company.

Usually, the third quarter plays host to the biggest revenue haul of  Alibaba for the year, as it contains the Singles’ Day, the biggest online sales event in the world. EVen though the e-commerce firm scored a record intake of $30 billion on 2018’s Singles’ Day, the annual growth of the event dropped to the weakest rate in its decade-long history.