WeLab Ltd., a Hong Kong-based financial technology firm backed by billionaire Li Ka-shing, has raised $220 million in new funding from investors including Credit Suisse Group AG and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp.
Other backers in the company’s latest round of equity and debt financing included the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, the Chinese e-commerce giant’s non-profit startup sponsorship outfit, according to WeLab’s founder and Chief Executive Officer Simon Loong. WeLab, which turned profitable this year, will “keep a close eye” on a possible initial public offering, he said.
“We are hitting an inflection point,” Loong said in a phone interview. “We need new investors to take this company into the next level.”
He declined to comment on whether the company had achieved the so-called unicorn valuation of $1 billion. A $160 million fundraising at the beginning of 2016 had taken WeLab close to that level, Forbes reported at the time.
Garnering a unicorn would be a boost for Hong Kong’s property- and finance-focused economy, which has struggled to create major startups. No companies from the city make the CB Insights list of privately owned technology unicorns, though the South China Morning Post reported in August that GoGoVan Ltd. became its first billion dollar-plus firm after a merger with China-based 58 Home’s freight unit.
The money from WeLab’s latest funding round will be used to bolster its credit technology, increase market share and expand into Southeast Asia, Loong said. He said he sees potential in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam because of their young populations and high levels of mobile penetration.
WeLab has two mobile lending platforms: Wolaidai in China and WeLend in Hong Kong. The firm has 25 million users and has processed $28 billion of loans since it was founded in 2013, according to a company statement.
Billionaire Li’s CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. is the largest shareholder in TOM Group Ltd., which was among investors in a $20 million fundraising by WeLab that was completed in 2015, according to WeLab.