WeLab raises US$220mil, wins Alibaba backing
By Digital News Asia November 8, 2017
- New participants include Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund
- Funding will be used to scale business, expand beyond Greater China
WELAB, one of the fastest growing fintech companies in Greater China, today announced that it has raised US$220 million (RM929.37 million) of combined Series B+ equity and debt strategic financing and has won the backing of the Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, International Finance Corporation (IFC), China Construction Bank (International), and other global banks. (US$1 = RM4.22)
The financing brings WeLab’s total funding to US$425 million and marks a significant milestone for the Hong Kong-based company whose early backers included CK Hutchison’s TOM Group, Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, and Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s best-known investment firms.
This follows WeLab’s US$160 million Series B financing in 2016, which was the world’s second largest fintech Series B of the year, according to a report published by KPMG and CB Insights.
WeLab was founded in 2013 and the mobile lending company operating in Hong Kong and China has since grown its number of users to 25 million and loans processed to US$28 billion.
With its proprietary risk management technology, WeLab analyses unstructured mobile big data within seconds to make credit decisions for individual borrowers, creating seamless mobile lending experiences. The company also licenses its technology to banks and telecommunications companies.
WeLab operates Wolaidai, one of China’s largest mobile lending platforms, and WeLend, Hong Kong’s leading online lending platform. The company also partners with traditional financial institutions which utilise WeLab’s technology to offer fintech-enabled solutions to their customers.
“For this round of strategic financing, it was important for us to have participants that would help scale our business to the next level. We have been able to strengthen our cash position, further diversify financing sources and strengthen relationships with leading global financial organisations. This will underpin our growth story, and see us deliver even greater fintech innovation in the world’s fastest growing market” said WeLab founder and CEO Simon Loong (pic, above).
WeLab plans to use the funds to advance its best-in-class credit technology, scale its rapidly-growing business and accelerate expansion into new products and geographies beyond Greater China.
“With a specific focus in developing innovation and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, we invest in promising Hong Kong companies with ground-breaking business models and technologies. We were attracted to WeLab because of its innovative business model. As one of the fastest growing fintech companies in Hong Kong and the Mainland, we look forward to working with the team and support their further expansion,” said Cindy Chow, executive director of Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund.
“WeLab has established itself as an exceptional, technology-driven fintech company driven by its professional management team, innovative products and best-in-class technology. Credit Suisse is committed to serving the diverse financing needs of entrepreneurs and we are proud to play a role in helping WeLab access the capital needed to fund its continued growth,” said Mervyn Chow, Greater China CEO and co-head of Investment Banking & Capital Markets, Asia Pacific for Credit Suisse, which is participating in the strategic financing and acting as placement agent.
Improving financial inclusion through technology
According to the World Bank, 36% of China’s population aged 15 and above have borrowed money, but only 10% managed to borrow from a financial institution. By providing a mobile-driven tech solution that is not reliant on consumers having an established credit history, WeLab has been able to provide formal financing and loans to consumers in a more efficient, direct and inclusive way.
“WeLab has demonstrated its ability to effectively make credit decisions based on non-traditional but otherwise reliable data for millions of Chinese borrowers without prior credit history,” said Andi Dervishi, FinTech Investment Group head of IFC, a member of the World Bank Group.
“We believe the firm’s strategic partnership with banks will result in a sustainable competitive advantage to the company. Similarly, consumers will benefit from improved access to credit and from building a credit history, an important step towards financial inclusion.”
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