Global FinTech platform Airwallex is said to have held talks with several Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds to raise capital, as the payment platform startup prepares to join global peers in expanding into the region.

The firm has in recent weeks held discussions with Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Mubadala Investment Co and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, chief executive officer Jack Zhang said in an interview with Bloomberg.

“Additional investment helps to continue to fuel Airwallex’s growth, particularly for our regional expansion plans, as well as AI-driven product innovation,” Zhang said in the interview. The company is cash flow-positive and has half a billion dollars in the bank, he said.

Founded in 2015 in Melbourne, Australia, the firm provides services including cross-border end-to-end payments and finance solutions for customers. It has raised $902 million from backers including Tencent Holdings Ltd, and is valued at $5.6 billion, information from its website showed.

Airwallex also plans to start operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia in the first phase of its Middle Eastern expansion, and eventually expand into Qatar and Bahrain.

It competes with the likes of PayPal Holdings Inc and Revolut Ltd, which already operate in the region. Zhang expects the firm to be able to secure a licence in the UAE in six- to 12 months, while approval in Saudi Arabia could take up to 18 months, the report added.

“I think in the last few years, the regulatory landscape is getting more transparent and we felt the timing is right for us to come,” he said. “A lot of our competition is already here, so we are also playing a bit of a catch up game.”

Airwallex is already in talks with several fintech firms in the region to help them expand. The company can also help international companies looking to enter the Middle East by providing them a single payments platform, Zhang said.

Airwallex acquired an online payment business licence in China last year. The firm is counting on growing ties between the Middle East and Beijing to boost its business in the region. The firm has 60 licences and permits globally, in markets including Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, the UK and the US.

“We are the second only foreign payments company regulated in China, after Paypal,” Zhang said. “And being an Australian firm gives us a unique angle to facilitating these partnerships between Beijing and this region.”

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