Ant Financial Services, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, has agreed to buy UK-based payments company WorldFirst, more than a year after its US$1.2 billion acquisition of MoneyGram was blocked by the US government. Photo: Imaginechina
Ant Financial Services, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, has agreed to buy UK-based payments company WorldFirst, more than a year after its US$1.2 billion acquisition of MoneyGram was blocked by the US government. Photo: Imaginechina

Ant Financial acquires UK payments firm WorldFirst to advance its global expansion

  • The acquisition comes mores than a year after the US blocked Ant Financial’s US$1.2 billion MoneyGram deal
Topic |   Mobile payments
Ant Financial Services, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, has agreed to buy UK-based payments company WorldFirst, more than a year after its US$1.2 billion acquisition of MoneyGram was blocked by the US government. Photo: Imaginechina
Ant Financial Services, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, has agreed to buy UK-based payments company WorldFirst, more than a year after its US$1.2 billion acquisition of MoneyGram was blocked by the US government. Photo: Imaginechina

Ant Financial Services, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, has agreed to buy UK-based payments company WorldFirst to bolster its global expansion, marking what could be the Chinese start-up’s biggest deal since a major US acquisition fell through last year.

“Alipay and WorldFirst’s capabilities and international footprints are highly complementary, and together, we will be able to better serve small businesses and promote financial inclusion around the world,” said an Ant Financial spokeswoman in a statement on Thursday.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

WorldFirst, which offers international payments and foreign exchange solutions for businesses, will give Ant Financial a foothold into the UK payments market. The company already partners with merchants in the UK to accept Alipay as a payment method for Chinese travellers.

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“The tie-up will add WorldFirst’s international online payments and virtual account products to Alipay’s broad range of technology solutions, enabling us to reach a greater number of customers, especially in the fast-growing area of cross border e-commerce,” the Ant Financial spokeswoman said.

In an internal memo to clients, WorldFirst chief executive Jonathan Quin said the combination of the company’s products and services with Ant Financial’s technology solutions will help build “the best global platform for international trade and bring fast and affordable services to individuals, small and medium-sized businesses and online merchants around the world”.

The WorldFirst acquisition comes a year after the inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States blocked Ant Financial’s proposed US$1.2 billion acquisition of MoneyGram over security concerns.

Since its establishment, Ant Financial has amassed more than 1 billion annual active users. It is currently valued at US$150 billion after raising about US$14 billion in the biggest-ever single fundraising round globally.

The company’s Alipay unit on Wednesday said that it had entered a partnership with US drugstore chain Walgreens. More than 7,000 Walgreens stores are expected to accept Alipay as a payments method by April this year.

New York-listed Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ant Financial buys UK payment firm WorldFirst