HK fintech unicorn WeLab secures $156m in Series C round

WeLab founder and CEO Simon Loong. Photo: WeLab's LinkedIn page

Hong Kong-based fintech unicorn WeLab has secured $156 million in a Series C round of financing, months after the company was granted with a virtual banking license by the central bank in the city this April.

The Series C round was backed by investors including Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, a not-for-profit initiative launched by Alibaba Group to back young entrepreneurs, and CCB International, an investment services company owned by China Construction Bank (CCB), according to a company statement on Thursday.

The investment is the largest transaction so far in the fintech field in Greater China, and the fourth among fintech investments in Asia in 2019, according to PitchBook.

“Further investment into technology research and development will enable us to apply these innovative technologies around the region and roll out additional products and services for our customers to provide holistic financial services digitally,” said Simon Loong, founder and group CEO of WeLab, in the statement.

The Hong Kong’s homegrown unicorn obtained a virtual banking license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the de facto central bank in the territory, in April 2019 and is expected to launch WeLab Bank in 2020.

The company also plans to further expand China’s business to business (B2B) partners to over 1,000 and offer our proprietary privacy computing solutions to enterprises on the cloud platform in the second half of 2020.

WeLab was founded in January 2013 by Hong Kong local Loong and his Taiwanese wife Frances Kang Tzu-ping, as well as another partner, Kelly Wong. The company started by providing loans to borrowers in Hong Kong and mainland China by analysing their creditworthiness based on big data.

The company’s operations now span across Hong Kong, mainland China and Indonesia through six major brands. Besides the upcoming WeLab Bank, the firm launched an online lending platform WeLend in July 2013 in Hong Kong and claimed a market share of about 13.2 per cent with a realized net growth of 155 per cent this year.

In mainland China, WeLab operates fintech platform WeLab Digital, which now has over 41 million registered users, new economy leasing solutions provider Taoxinji, and B2B enterprise solution brand Tianmian Lab.

After entering the Indonesian market in 2018, WeLab formed a joint venture, PT AWDA, in partnership with Indonesian conglomerate PT Astra International. Maucash, an online borrowing service offered by PT AWDA, acquired over 600,000 registered users in the first year of operations. The joint venture also received a fintech licence from the Indonesian Financial Services Regulatory Authority (OJK) in September 2019, becoming one of the 13 licensed operators in the country.

The company aims to enter another Southeast Asian market within the next two years.

The new investment took the total capital raised by WeLab to $581 million. The company closed $220 million in a Series B1 equity and debt financing round from Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and other global banks in November 2017.

The company also raised $160 million in a Series B round in January 2016. The round was backed by a consortium of international and Chinese investors led by Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad. Sequoia Capital, CK Hutchison’s TOM Group, and Yuri Milner, founder of investment firm DST Global, were among investors in its previous rounds.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.