Refugee set to join rich in £3bn listing of healthcare app Babylon

Iranian refugee set to join Britain’s rich list after signing deal to list healthcare app Babylon in the US

Health entrepreneur Ali Parsa is set to become a billionaire after Babylon, the app he founded, signed a £3billion deal to list on the US stock market.

British-Iranian Parsa, who was granted asylum in the UK after fleeing his homeland in 1981 following the Islamic Revolution, founded Babylon in 2014 as a telephone appointment service for GP surgeries. 

The firm will merge with a so-called special purpose acquisition company (Spac) called Alkuri Global, giving it a listing on the US Nasdaq.

British-Iranian Ali Parsa, who was granted asylum in the UK after fleeing his homeland in 1981 following the Islamic Revolution, founded Babylon in 2014 

Spacs are listed on the stock market with no purpose other than to buy a business like Babylon.

Parsa’s firm operates two key branches – an app, which allows people to hold appointments with a doctor over their mobile phone, and a range of digital ‘self-care’ tools such as symptom checkers run by artificial intelligence and advice services which help customers manage health conditions.

The business, which charges for its services in countries where healthcare is not state-funded, has also partnered with the NHS to allow patients to see an NHS doctor for free via their phone.

Babylon serves 24m people across the world, and in 2020 helped one patient every five seconds. 

Its merger with Alkuri will value Babylon at £3billion – and Parsa owns around a third of the business, valuing his stake at £1billion.

The 56-year-old said: ‘We founded Babylon on a fundamental belief that it is possible to make quality healthcare accessible and affordable for every person on earth, by combining the latest in technology and the best in medical expertise.

‘Becoming a public company is just another step in our journey. We are at the very beginning of our work to re-imagine our sector, to make it digital-first and prevention-first and shift the focus away from sick care to true health care.’

Babylon’s existing investors – who include Swedish investment companies Kinnevik and VNV, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund the Public Investment Fund, US healthcare firm Centene and German insurance giant MunichRe – will own 84 per cent of the new firm, and will not cash in any of their stakes.

In 2004 Parsa, who becomes chairman and chief executive, launched Circle Health, a hospital operator which became Europe’s largest partnership of clinicians. It was bought by Toscafund in 2017 for £74million.

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