Thursday 14 February 2019 3:59 pm

Chinese fintech giant Ant Financial buys up UK currency exchange Worldfirst

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Ant Financial has agreed a deal to acquire UK currency exchange Worldfirst, solidifying the firm's presence outside of China.

The deal comes after an attempt by Ant Financial to buy US remittances firm Moneygram was blocked by US regulators last year, citing national security concerns.

Worldfirst was said to be valued at around $700m (£547.9m) and shut down its US arm last month, according to multiple media reports. Ant Financial did not disclose the financial terms of the transaction.

Read more: Chinese tech giant Ant Financial in talks to buy WorldFirst

An affiliate of Chinese tech giant Alibaba, with which it runs the successful payments platform Alipay, Ant Financial was last valued at $150bn in reports last summer.

Worldfirst's chief executive Jonathan Quin is said to have told clients in a letter that the firm "will continue to operate as a UK-headquartered and regulated business with global operations", despite being a wholly-owned entity of Ant Financial. Quin will remain at the helm of Worldfirst after the transaction is completed.

Alibaba's founder Jack Ma has been increasingly expanding into Western countries, placing a focus on technology by launching Alipay in places popular with Chinese tourists. Alibaba's cloud services arm opened several data centres in the UK last year, as it sizes up to rivals Amazon Web Services and Microsoft in the battle for sector domination.

Read more: Tech giant Alibaba opens two cloud data centres in the UK

Ma was named China's richest man last year, and is currently in nineteenth place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a total net worth of $40.5bn.

Alibaba's revenue growth slowed to its weakest pace in three years last quarter, as the ongoing US-China trade spat and a general slowdown in the region weighed heavily on the firm's busiest period of the year.

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