Alibabas Ant Financial buys UK currency exchange WorldFirst for $700m

Jack Ma
Alibaba/Ant Financial founder Jack Ma

Ant Financial, the financial services affiliate of Alibaba, has penned its first major European deal with the acquisition of UK-based payments company WorldFirst for a reported $700m. No official press announcement has been made by either party, but the deal has been confirmed by WorldFirst in a note to its clients and through a statement from an Ant Financial spokesperson.

Although Ant Financial’s Alipay service is already accepted by some merchants in the UK, including Merlin Entertainments venues in London, it hopes the acquisition will help it better serve smaller businesses worldwide, the company said in a statement.

WorldFirst will become a wholly-owned division of Ant Financial, while keeping its London headquarters.

“The products and services of Alipay and WorldFirst are highly complementary,” said WorldFirst CEO Jonathan Quin in an internal memo. “All your current customer and account information will also remain unchanged.”

The note added that the combination of the two companies would help to 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.”