The UK’s Babylon Health, a start-up used by the National Health Service, is in forthcoming discussions with the Saudi Arabia Sovereign Wealth Fund in an agreement that will add a value of the Company in the order of more than $1 billion based on individuals who are fully aware of their plans. The investment, part of a fresh start-up financing round of hundreds of millions, could be announced this week and will give Babylon a “unicorn” status, these individuals said.
Babylon has established a “chatbot” to control the patient symptoms used by NHS and founded in 2013 by a British-Iranian entrepreneur and banker, Ali Parsa. It provides a service to video calls to physicians via smartphone that connects patients in southwest London. Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary, has also been acclaimed as one of AI’s’ biggest names.’ The firm has agreements with South Korea’s Samsung and China’s Tencent as well. But, following physicians ‘ complaints that its symptom checker may miss indications of severe disease, the start-up was tested in the UK by regulators.
The investment will mark the latest tech bet by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the main vehicle that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has tried to diversify the holdings of the oil-dependent country. The deal also represents the PIF’s first high-profile direct investment in a UK start-up. It comes as the British government continues to court the Gulf country in an attempt to create deeper economic ties, including in healthcare, even as the international community wrestles with the fallout from the killing last October of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The size of the planned investment is not clear, but between $100 m and $500 m is anticipated, said one of these individuals. Existing investors include Hoxton Ventures, Kinnevik from Sweden, Nassef Sawiris ‘ Egyptian billionaire family, and DeepMind co-founders from Google. In 2017, when it employed about 250 people, the company was valued at more than $200 m in fundraising. Since then, its company has grown rapidly, employing more than 1,000 individuals. Prudential Asia, a British insurer branch, signed a $100 m deal in 2018 to use the software of Babylon.
Babylon, based in London, has been looking for new investment to finance its development since previously this year. Mr. Parsa earlier resulted in Circle Health, an NHS hospital’s personal manager, before falling into economic hardship in 2012. The Minister for Health Development of Saudi Arabia met on March 2018 in London with his UK counterpart to discuss greater collaboration between the two nations.
At the moment, Minister of State for Care Caroline Dinenage said: “Our partnership with Saudi Arabia will have a major effect on the prosperity of our countries and our people — paving the way for fresh approaches to healthcare that can both profit and enhance patient security.”
The PIF has more than $300 billion in assets under management and has increased its portfolio’s share of international assets to 10%. The fund is intended to further increase its overseas assets over time. Best known for its $45bn investment in the technology fund of SoftBank, it has produced a series of splashy direct bets on tech firms including ride-hailing group Uber, Elon Musk’s Tesla, and Magic Leap, the augmented reality firm.