Wex Inc. is being sued in a British court for backing out of a $1.7 billion deal to purchase two United Kingdom-based travel payment businesses from a New York-based hedge fund manager, Bloomberg News reported.

Wex, a payment-processing technology firm based in Portland, has said it can legally back out of the acquisition because of unforeseen circumstances related to the coronavirus outbreak. But Elliott Management Corp., the hedge fund management firm that owns the two companies, wants the court to compel Wex to complete the deal, Bloomberg reported.

Elliott said Wex violated the terms of its acquisition agreement and should be required to complete the purchase, Bloomberg reported.

Wex announced in its most recent quarterly report, issued last week, that it was scrapping a deal to buy eNett and Optal, two business-to-business travel payment transaction companies, for about $1.7 billion. At the time, Wex said it had the right to pull out of the purchase agreement because of the pandemic’s impact on the two companies’ operations, while officials for eNett and Optal indicated they would fight the decision.

Wex spokesman Robert Gould said Tuesday that the company would offer no further comment on the matter because of the pending litigation.

According to Bloomberg, the case against Wex is the first of its kind in the UK and could set a precedent in that country regarding whether a business can invoke the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to cancel a previously agreed-upon merger or acquisition.

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