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Hong Kong’s WeLab Aims For IPO At Valuation Up To $2 Billion: Report

WeLab, the Hong Kong-based fintech unicorn backed by billionaire Li Ka-shing, is said to be planning an initial public offering for later this year, according to a report from Nikkei Asia.

The listing could value the startup from $1.5 billion to $2 billion, the report said. The firm is apparently seeking to list its shares in either Hong Kong or the U.S. WeLab did not respond to a request for comment about its plans for an IPO.

WeLab attained its unicorn status as a startup with a valuation of more than $1 billion during a $220 million funding round in 2017. 

The possible share listing comes at a time when e-payments and virtual banks have been boosted by the Covid-19 pandemic as more people go online to complete their transactions.

Established in 2013, WeLab’s cofounders include Simon Loong, a former Citibank and Standard Chartered Bank executive, his wife, Frances Kang, and their partner, Kelly Wong. Loong was on a mid-career break to pursue a master’s degree at Stanford University, where he met Kang who was completing her MBA.

“Fintech was in its infancy, a very different scene,” Loong said during an interview with Forbes years later. “Many banks were very skeptical about fintech. I thought of combining the best and the old in banking with technology in big data and analytics to form a new company.”

Today, WeLab has grown its customer base to 47 million users with operations in three markets: WeLend and WeLab Bank in Hong Kong; WeLab Digital, Taoxinji and Tianmian Lab in mainland China; and Maucash in Indonesia.

WeLab’s success attracted early investments from the likes of Sequoia Capital and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Tom Group that were later followed by Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, International Finance Corp. and ING Bank, among others.

Last year, WeLab also set up the only homegrown virtual bank in Hong Kong. The firm said it received more than 10,000 applications in less than 10 days after launching its new banking services.

The fintech company had actually sought to go public earlier. In 2018, WeLab was preparing to raise $500 million through an IPO, but the plan was put on hold due to market volatility at the time.

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