The Financial Times reported that if a deal is reached, it would be the first major push by Ant Financial to enter the U.K. market. Alipay, the digital payments service, is already supported by some retailers in the country. WorldFirst handles payments and cash transfers for companies and people around the globe. Currently, Alibaba has a 33 percent stake in Ant Financial, with most of both companies’ business in China. Both also have plans to expand outside China, thus Ant’s talks with WorldFirst, noted the report.
The FT said that if a deal with WorldFirst is inked, it would mark a big test for Ant Financial, which has had trouble expanding. The paper pointed to Ant Financial’s failed $1.2 billion deal to acquire MoneyGram, the Texas cash transfer company, which would have given Ant a big presence in payments in the U.S. Both sides had to give up on the deal in early 2018 because it didn’t get approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. The FT noted that the deal was not approved over concerns about a Chinese company owning financial data on people living in the U.S.
While business at Ant Financial has been booming, the company posted a rare earnings pre-tax loss of 2.4 billion yuan ($353 million USD) for the quarter ending Sept. 30. That compares with a pre-tax profit of 5.3 billion yuan in the year-ago period. Alibaba disclosed the loss and blamed it on the cost of capturing growth, which hurt results. Alipay, the digital payment service that is in a battle with Tencent’s WeChat Pay for dominance in China, had 700 million active users at the end of the quarter, which was higher than the 520 million active users it reported at the start of 2018.