China's e-payments giant Ant Group nears mammoth IPO

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 20 2020 07:03 PM

SHANGHAI - Ant Group, the online payments giant affiliated to Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba, said Monday it had taken the first steps toward a blockbuster dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong that could be among the biggest in years.

The IPO by Ant Group -- whose Alipay platform dominates the country's thriving e-commerce market -- also would mark a major step forward in a Chinese government initiative to get its big domestic tech companies to list their shares at home instead of abroad.

A company announcement said the shares will be listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong and on a Nasdaq-styled tech board called STAR that was set up on the Shanghai Stock Exchange last year.

The announcement did not give any details on the timing or size of the issue, saying only that Ant Group had "commenced the process" for launching an eventual listing.

But the company, based like Alibaba Group in the eastern city of Hangzhou, was valued at around $150 billion in its most recent round of fund-raising.

It is seeking a valuation of at least $200 billion, Bloomberg news agency reported, citing unidentified sources.

The statement quoted Eric Jing, Executive Chairman of Ant Group, as lauding the STAR market for allowing global investors access to companies such as his, and giving Chinese tech titans wider access to world capital markets.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to play a part in this development," Jing said.

"Becoming a public company will enhance transparency to our stakeholders, including customers, business partners, employees, shareholders and regulators."

Alibaba itself has been listed in the US since 2014, but last year raised billions more in a second listing in Hong Kong.

And last month Alibaba's Chinese rival raised almost $4 billion in an initial public offering in Hong Kong that was the world's second-biggest of the year.

Tech analysts say Ant Group controls more than half of China's huge mobile-payments sector, which it fiercely contests with Chinese rival Tencent.

Ant Group -- spun off from Alibaba years ago -- has expanded recently into lending, wealth management, travel and a range of other services, and this year changed its name to Ant Group from the previously Ant Financial Services Group to reflect it expanded portfolio.

It generated $2 billion in profit in the most recent quarter, Bloomberg said, basing that on calculations made from Alibaba figures.

Ant Group said the listings will allow the company to help drive domestic Chinese consumer demand and "position the company to develop global markets".

Ant Group representatives did not immediately respond to a request for more detail.