Plans are afoot to go to the next stage of growth with preliminary steps for a public listing in Hong Kong that could raise approximately $500 million. WeLab has hired investment bankers to begin the process, according to a Bloomberg report. The step would follow the recent IPOs of China fintech startups PPDai and Qudian.
WeLab, founded in 2013 by Stanford grad Simon Loong, has gone from strength to strength in raising capital. The fintech startup drew an initial $20 million in January 2015 from a group of investors including Sequoia Capital and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s TOM Group. Then, in early 2016, WeLab nabbed $160 million in Series B financing at a valuation estimated at nearly $1 billion. That was not only a new milestone for Hong Kong startups but also a sign of how new models for online and mobile lending in the Asian region are taking off. That round was led by Malaysia’s Khazanah Nasional Berhad with participation from the Netherlands’ ING Bank and China’s Guangdong Technology Financial Group. Just last month, WeLab raised $220 million from the World Bank's International Finance Corp. and the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.
WeLab operates the Chinese mobile lending platform Wolaidai and WeLend service in Hong Kong, the city's first P2P lending platform. The startup offers loans through a fully automated process that takes minutes and can be completed on mobile. It relies on 800 data points related to potential borrowers to make decisions on approvals, and obtains funds from banks and other financial institutions to make below-market-rate loans. A typical loan carries an interest rate of about 10% to 20%.
WeLab makes money on the difference between the lending rate and the cost of its funds. The platform reports a delinquency rate of 1% on loans that are 30 days past due, which it asserts is lower than most credit cards issued to new users.
The firm's Wolaidai and WeLand services have 25 million users and have processed $28 billion of loans.
WeLab’s founder and CEO, Simon Loong, was the recipient of Silicon Dragon’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2014.
One of Hong Kong's unicorn startups, online lending startup WeLab, fresh from raising $220 million in funding last month, is considering its next mega move.