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Alibaba’s Ant Financial acquires UK payments company WorldFirst

Ant Financial, the Alibaba-owned fintech company, has acquired currency exchange and payments company WorldFirst. By taking over the UK company, Chinese internet giant Alibaba can take a major step into Europe.

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The acquisition was in the works for quite some time, but WorldFirst confirmed the news to its customers yesterday. According to ChinaDaily, the deal follows Ant Financial’s attempt to take over the American transfer company MoneyGram, but this was blocked by the US government last year.

And then Ant Financial targeted WorldFirst, after which the latter announced the closure of its operations in the US. Sources say this decision was made so the Ant Financial deal wouldn’t be derailed by US regulators. It’s unknown how much money is involved, but when negotiations started in December, some reports said it’s about over 625 million euros.

European merchants accept Alipay payments from Chinese shoppers

Now Ant Financial has taken over a European payments company, the Alibaba-owned business can further expand in Europe. Over the last couple of years, Ant Financial has pursued partnerships with many merchants in Europe who now accept payments from Chinese tourists and online shoppers using Alipay. Ant Financial is the company that runs Alipay, one of China’s most popular mobile payments systems.

Alipay’s partnerships and offices in Europe

Alipay opened offices in London and Milan in 2015 and signed partnership deals with Barclays in the United Kingdom, BNP Paribas in France, UniCredit in Itay and SIX Group in Switzerland one year later. And in 2017, the company expanded its partnership with Dutch payments company Adyen.

Ant Financial says the acquisition of WorldFirst will provide overseas merchants with better access to the ecommerce market of China. “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 ecommerce“, an Ant Financial spokeswoman said.

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