According to a report in The Financial Times, World First has been in deal discussions with Ant Financial since the end of 2018 which, if inked, would result in the largest expansion by the mobile payments provider into western markets. Citing a message to customers, The Financial Times reported World First said it made the decision to discontinue operations in the U.S. and that services will stop being offered after Feb. 20. World First wants to prevent it from becoming the second company that saw a deal with Ant Financial blocked by regulators in the U.S. over national security concerns. The report noted World First U.S. customers were told World First USA will become Omega and will operate independently of World First. A source told the paper that the move would likely result in job losses among the staff in the U.S. Meanwhile an executive at a rival FinTech who is familiar with the decision said that while it’s extreme to shutter the entire operations, it’s the only way to prevent U.S. regulators from blocking the deal.
Last year around this time Ant Financial had to abandoned plans to buy MoneyGram in a $1.2 billion deal. Ant had to pay a $30 million termination fee after the acquisition wasn’t able to get the blessing of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. Lawmakers were worried about financial data of people residing in the U.S. being in the hands of a company that is partly owned by the Chinese government. Since then a trade war between China and the U.S. has soured relationships between the two countries further.
World First has been in the U.S. market since 2011, rolling out a big product upgrade in October. Even with World First getting out of the U.S. market, a acquisition by Ant would mark the Chinese digital payment company’s first major entry into Europe.