HONG KONG (Reuters) – Ant Group, the fintech arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, plans a Hong Kong float as soon as this year and targets a valuation of more than $200 billion, said two sources with knowledge of the matter.
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Ant Financial Services Group, Alibaba’s financial affiliate, is pictured at its headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China January 24, 2018. Picture taken January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Shu Zhang/File Photo
The world’s most valuable tech “unicorn” had been looking to sell shares in Hong Kong and mainland China simultaneously, but is now leaning heavily towards the Asian financial hub first because it would probably face a smoother listing process, the sources and a third person with knowledge of the matter said.
It is looking at selling between 5% and 10% of its shares in an initial public offering, said one of the sources, in what would be one of the world’s biggest listings this year.
The company has been working with its advisers on the planned float in recent months, said the sources, who cautioned that details have yet to be finalized and are subject to change.
In response, Ant said the information about its IPO plans was incorrect. Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The sources sought anonymity as the information was private.
Ant, based in China’s eastern city of Hangzhou, is 33% owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and is controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
Although valued at about $150 billion in its last funding round in 2018, small trades in the secondary market late last year gave it an implied valuation of $200 billion.
Ant is China’s dominant mobile payments company, offering loans, payments, insurance and asset management services via mobile apps.
However, recent years have seen it emphasise its technology prowess amid increased regulatory scrutiny of financial risk.
The company wants to be referred to in English as “Ant Group Co,” its spokeswoman said. It won regulatory approval in May to change its legal name in Chinese to Ant Technology Group Co.
Ant generated revenue of about 120 billion yuan ($17.10 billion) last year and almost 17 billion yuan in net profit, according to financial documents seen by Reuters.
Ant said the information was incorrect.
A Hong Kong listing of Ant – one of the world’s most hotly-anticipated IPOs – would be a boost to the city’s status as a global capital markets centre as its leaders come under fire for China’s imposition last month of a tough national security law.
This year, however, capital-raising has been helped by the broader tension between China and the United States, with several U.S.-listed Chinese firms planning secondary listings in Hong Kong to help establish an investor base closer to home.
In November, Alibaba itself raised $12.9 billion in a secondary listing.
Reporting by Julie Zhu; Additional reporting by Kane Wu; Editing by Jennifer Hughes and Clarence Fernandez