Analysis & Comment

British currency exchange WorldFirst shuts U.S. operations: FT

(Reuters) – British currency exchange startup WorldFirst is shutting its U.S. operations to ward off a potential regulatory hurdle for its planned takeover by China’s Ant Financial Services Group, the Financial Times reported on Friday.

WorldFirst told its customers this week that the company will stop offering all services in the United States after Feb. 20, according to the FT.

Its U.S. operations will be rebranded as Omega and it will operate independently of World First Group, the newspaper said.

The United States in recent years has blocked many proposed Chinese investments in American companies in an effort to stop China from acquiring important technologies, making this approval a rare win.

It could have become Ant Financial’s second deal to face U.S. regulators’ opposition citing security concerns, the newspaper reported, citing two people briefed on its decision.

Last year, Ant Financial’s plan to acquire U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International Inc was rejected because the companies could not mitigate concerns over the safety of data that can be used to identify U.S. citizens, sources had told Reuters.

Ant Financial, the fintech affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, held discussions to buy WorldFirst was earlier reported by British media in December. The FT said the potential deal would be valued at 700 million pounds ($916.5 million).

WorldFirst and Ant Financial were not immediately available for a comment.

($1 = 0.7638 pounds)

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