Saudi Public Investment Fund to invest in UK startup Babylon Health: Report

Photo from Babylon Health's social media page.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund is exploring investment in Babylon Health, one of Britain’s most prominent healthtech startups, according to a Financial Times report that quoted people with knowledge of the deal.

Financial details of the possible investment have not been disclosed yet but according to the report, the investment for the Saudi Arabian wealth fund will value the chatbot maker at more than $1 billion.

Sources interviewed by FT also said the investment size is expected to be between $100 million and $500 million.

Babylon, founded in 2013 by British-Italian entrepreneur Ali Parsa, announced in February that it was raising about $400 million to finance its rapid expansion. Last year, the startup held talks with SoftBank about an investment but the discussions did not progress, according to people with direct knowledge of the talks.

The startup, which has deals with England’s National Health Service (NHS), has developed a “chatbot” that analyses patients’ symptoms and a 24-hour video consultancy service that combines AI technology with the medical expertise of humans.

Through the Babylon app, patients can talk to a GP within minutes via phone or video call, ask simple medical questions, and monitor their health with the software’s tracking system.

If the investment pushes through, it will be the latest tech bet by the PIF, one of the largest in the Middle East with about $300 billion in assets under management, and the first high-profile direct investment by the fund into a startup in the UK.

The startup last raised $57 million in its Series B funding round in April 2017, valuing the company at more than $200 million. Its workforce includes 600 scientists and technologists, 200 doctors and a handful of sales staff.

The investment forms part of PIF’s efforts to diversify its heavily domestic portfolio. By 2030, the Saudi fund aims to hit assets under management of $2 trillion with a ratio of 50:50 for international and domestic investments.