NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Venture capital-backed financial technology companies raised a record $39.57 billion from investors globally in 2018, up 120 percent from the previous year, according to research by data provider CB Insights published on Tuesday.
Funding was raised through 1,707 deals, up from 1,480 in 2017, the research said.
The surge in funding was due in large part to 52 mega-rounds, or investments larger than $100 million, which were worth $24.88 billion combined, the research said.
A $14 billion investment in Ant Financial, the payment affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , accounted for 35 percent of total fintech funding alone last year, the research said.
In the last three months of the year, five companies joined the coveted ranks of fintech "unicorns", or companies valued at more than $1 billion. These include credit card provider Brex, digital bank Monzo and data aggregator Plaid.
Venture capital investors have been pouring billions of dollars into fintech companies, in the hopes that they can gain market share from incumbent financial institutions by offering easier to use and cheaper digital financial services.
Fintechs have emerged globally across all sectors of finance, including lending, banking and wealth management.
While the large rounds minted new unicorns and led funding to hit a record high in 2018, CB Insights estimates these will likely delay initial public offerings.
"IPO activity is likely to remain lackluster in 2019," the research reads.
Asia saw the biggest jump in number of deals in 2018, growing 38 percent from the previous year and accounting for a record $22.65 billion, according to the study.
In the United States, fintechs raised a record $11.89 billion through 659 investments, while the number of deals dropped in Europe, but funding reached a record $3.53 billion. (Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)