Tencent, SoftBank-led funding pushes Argentina's Uala to $2.45 bln valuation

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Aug 13 (Reuters) - China's online giant, Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK), and SoftBank Group Corp's (9984.T) Latin America-focused fund led an investment round for Argentine firm Uala which took its valuation to $2.45 billion, the fintech company said on Friday.

The $350 million investment comes several months after Uala announced its expansion into Mexico, as it tries to capitalize on the interest around the fast-growing fintech industry in Latin America.

Launched in October 2017, Uala offers a Mastercard branded prepaid card and an app that allows users access to a number of financial services including sending and receiving money, online shopping, withdrawing cash at ATMs and requesting loans.

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The digital banking startup, founded by Harvard University graduate Pierpaolo Barbieri, has a headcount of 1,000, and aims to raise it to 1,500 by the end of the year. In an interview in May, Barbieri said Uala could eventually expand into Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, Chile, United States and Europe. read more

In June, the company said it had issued more than three million Mastercard branded prepaid cards in Argentina. Uala is also trying to expand through the acquisition of rival Wilobank, the first fully digital bank approved by the central bank in Argentina.

Investment giant SoftBank has doubled down on its bets in South America, with the Japanese conglomerate investing in startups including Mexico's Clip and Brazil's Creditas. read more

Nubank, the Brazilian digital bank backed by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), is also gearing up for a U.S. listing that could be one of the biggest market debuts of a South American company. read more

Uala's latest round included existing investors Goldman Sachs (GS.N), venture capital firms Ribbit Capital and Greyhound Capital and billionaire George Soros' investment firm, Soros Fund Management.

New investors D1 Capital Partners and 166 2nd, a fund created by WeWork (BOWX.O) co-founder Adam Neumann, also participated in the round.

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Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi

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