ING, Khazanah Invest in Firm Backed by Billionaire Li

  • WeLab's latest round of financing raises $160 million
  • Third financial technology investment by ING since September

ING Groep NV’s banking unit and a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund have bought stakes in WeLab, an operator of online lending platforms backed by Asia’s third-richest man Li Ka-shing.

ING Bank, Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Bhd. and Chinese state fund Guangdong Technology Financial Group participated in WeLab’s latest round of financing, which raised $160 million, according to a statement by the technology company Wednesday. Specific investment terms weren’t disclosed.

WeLab operates Wolaidai, a mobile lending platform in China, and Hong Kong’s WeLend.hk. Financial firms such as ING are seeking technology investments to help them cope with what Anju Patwardhan, Standard Chartered Plc’s chief innovation officer, refers to as a “tsunami of competition” from non-traditional rivals. Financial technology firms are going head-to-head with banks in areas such as loans, investments and money transfers, Patwardhan wrote in an article in October.

Venture capitalists plowed $10.5 billion into global financial-technology startups in the first three quarters of 2015, up from $6.04 billion for all of 2014, according to research firm CB Insights.

Billionaire Li’s CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. is the largest shareholder in TOM Group Ltd., which was among investors along with Sequoia Capital in a $20 million fundraising by WeLab that was completed a year ago, the technology firm said. Cash from the latest investment round will be used in developing credit technology, Simon Loong, WeLab’s founder and chief executive, said in the statement.

The WeLab deal would be ING’s third financial-technology investment in about four months. The Dutch company in September acquired Qustomer, a Belgian site that allows users to collect and redeem loyalty points from retail outlets, and took a stake in Kabbage, an American automated lending platform, the following month.

Khazanah’s WeLab investment comes after it took an undisclosed stake in global travel search engine Skyscanner earlier this month. The state investment company, which invested in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. before its September 2014 initial public offering, had about 19 percent of its portfolio of companies based outside of Malaysia by the end of 2015.

— With assistance by Aipeng Soo

(Corrects first paragraph to say Li is Asia's third-richest man.)
    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE