Iranian refugee behind Babylon Healthcare to become billionaire in PSPC deal
An Anglo-Iranian entrepreneur who came to the UK as a teenage refugee is set to become a billionaire from his company’s US listing.
Dr Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon, is expected to reap a major windfall from the deal. He debuted on the Sunday Times Rich List this year with an estimated net worth of £ 825million thanks to his owning just over half of Babylon’s shares. The valuation surge since then means his stake is now probably worth more than £ 1 billion.
“Frankly you shouldn’t believe everything you read and it’s irrelevant – they clearly matter more than I count,” Dr Parsa told Yahoo Finance UK. “But the reality is, I’ve had enough – even before Babylon as a retired investment banker, I had enough money to live on. The question really is what to do with your life.”
Babylon’s successful debut on the stock market capped a remarkable career for Dr Parsa, who came to Britain as a refugee in 1982 after fleeing the Islamic revolution in Iran. He arrived in Britain at the age of 16 without a big name, but Dr Parsa is now playing down this difficult time in his life.
“To say that I was a refugee is kind of dramatizing a bit,” he said. “I was that, but I was fortunate enough to be born into a very loving middle class family and so by the time I left Iran at the age of 16, all the foundations were there.”
Dr Parsa, 56, got a place at UCL in the mid-1980s and went on to earn a doctorate in engineering physics. He then pursued a career in the City – working for Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs – before founding a chain of hospitals, Circle Healthcare.
He left the company in 2012 and created Babylon a year later. The company is working with the NHS in the UK to offer virtual GP consultations and is using artificial intelligence to help with healthcare. It spread to the United States last year where it has grown rapidly.
“The question is: can you do with health what Google has done with information? Dr Parsa said. “Can you make it accessible, affordable and put it in the hands of every human being?” Basically what we’re trying to do in Babylon is to solve this problem of accessibility, quality and affordability. If I can provide most of the health care that most people need the devices they already have – the mobile devices – which are highly accessible. “
Babylon has raised hundreds of millions from investors, including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and German insurance giant Munich Re. US data analytics firm Palantir (PLTR) is the latest company to back the health tech startup, which will support the company through its IPO.
Babylon will join the New York Nasdaq market through a merger with Alkuri Global (KURI), an ad hoc acquisition company or SPAC. Babylon will raise just over half a billion dollars from the deal. Dr Parsa said the funds would be for expansion into the United States.
“I think we haven’t even started to scratch the surface in the United States,” he said. “We still have a huge amount of work to do in the US. That’s where we’re going to be focusing over the next few years. We’re also seeing strong demand in Southeast Asia and that will likely come later.
“For us, it’s always about how to grow the business in a safe but secure way. The demand is more than what we have. The reality is that we have to manage this demand very carefully. “
Watch: What are PSPCs?