Ant Group, the Chinese fintech payments company that Alibaba founder Jack Ma owns 50.4% of, yesterday started the process towards a dual listing on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges. The planned IPO, which it is hoped will value the company at between $200 billion and $250 billion, would be a world record raise if, as is being speculated, Ma sells as much as 15% of his holding in the company.
That would put the sum raised through the IPO at more than the previous record, the $29.4 billion raised by Saudi Aramco, the Saudi state-backed oil and gas company that floated last year.
If you thought Alibaba founder Jack Ma was stepping into semi-retirement when the 55-year-old stepped away from the Chinese ecommerce giant last year, gradually selling down his stake to just 4.8% since, you would be sorely mistaken.
Ma’s has mainly been in the news for cashing in almost $10 billion of Alibaba shares, by last month further reducing his holding from 6.4%. But it now appears he has been busy plotting another huge windfall. Ant will launch a roadshow promoting the upcoming IPO this week.
Previously named Ant Financial, Ant Group, best known for its Alipay mobile wallet, was spun out of Alibaba as in 2011. At the time the move annoyed Softbank and Yahoo, which were Alibaba’s biggest outside investors at the time because it took the promising Alipay out of the company and into a new entity majority controlled by Ma. It now looks as though it was an astute move that will pay of handsomely for the Chinese online tycoon.
Ant Group has since diversified from mobile payments into insurance, consumer lending and wealth management, with all its financial services products offered purely online. Over 600 million Chinese investors have money in the company’s money market fund. Alipay itself has also evolved into a ‘super-app’ to rival Tencent’s WeChat. It offers services and functions from restaurant reviews and online shopping to food delivery and hotel bookings.
Scottish fund manager Baillie Gifford, which has had huge recent success thanks to its technology holdings, many acquired at an early stage, is one of Ant Group’s major shareholders. If the IPO reaches anywhere approaching its targeted value, it will represent another big win for Baillie Gifford’s fund management team.
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