(Amends par. 3 with statement from Wizz Financial clarifying that the BFC acquisition is still subject to regulatory approval)
By Lisa Barrington
DUBAI, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Financial technology firm Wizz Financial said on Thursday the United Arab Emirates central bank had approved its acquisition of currency firm UAE Exchange, a unit of troubled London-listed payment firm Finablr which Wizz agreed to buy last year.
UAE Exchange, which engages in money transfers, foreign exchange and payments services, was seized by the central bank in March last year after it ran into financial troubles. The firm suspended all new transactions at its more than 150 branches in the Gulf country.
Wizz Financial is the new name of the consortium of Switzerland-headquartered Prism Group AG and Abu Dhabi’s Royal Strategic Partners that bought Finablr for a nominal $1 in December, and also said in August that subject to regulatory approval it would be acquiring Bahrain Financing Company (BFC).
The acquisition is still in the process of being finalised, and the UAE central bank’s approval was necessary for the takeover of UAE Exchange to go ahead.
The approval “satisfies a main formality required for the completion of the transfer of the business of the Finablr Group pursuant to the sale and purchase agreement entered into … in December 2020”, Wizz Financial said.
“Once finalised, UAE Exchange will launch its branch network in the UAE.”
Finablr Chief Executive Rob Miller said the in-principle approval was “a major milestone on the path to recovery” for the group.
Finablr was one of the companies backed by Indian billionaire BR Shetty that last year came under severe financial strain after it emerged they had undisclosed debt and that alleged fraudulent transactions had taken place.
Shares in the group have been suspended from trading on the London Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Jan Harvey)