How China's Ant Group built a $17 trillion payments machine

Hong Kong (CNN Business)Ant Group — the crown jewel of billionaire Jack Ma’s tech empire — is one step closer to its highly anticipated market debut.

China’s securities regulator said Wednesday that Ant has received the green light for its Shanghai public offering, and has now cleared all regulatory hurdled for a dual-listing that is expected to rake in billions.
Ant, the financial technology company affiliated with Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba (BABA), plans to list simultaneously in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

    Ant will announce the IPO’s share price on October 27, according to updated regulatory filings.
    The listing is expected to set a new world record, surpassing the $29.4 billion float by Saudi Aramco’s IPO last December. The IPO would also be the first simultaneous listing in Hong Kong and on Shanghai’s Star Market, China’s answer to the Nasdaq.


    Ant said in its prospectus that the float will be evenly split between Hong Kong and Shanghai. The company will sell up to 1.67 billion shares on each exchange, which will account for 11% of total outstanding shares post-IPO. Analysts at Bernstein estimate the company could be worth as much as $270 billion.
    Ma, the lead founder of Ant, has “ultimate control” over the company, according to regulatory filings. It is unclear how many shares he will retain once the offering is completed.
    Alibaba, which was co-founded by Ma, also has the right to subscribe for additional shares “so that it may hold an equity interest not exceeding 33% in our company” once the IPO is completed, Ant said in regulatory filings.
    The company shunned Wall Street for its public debut, even though Ma chose the New York Stock Exchange for Alibaba’s record shattering IPO in 2014. These days, rising geopolitical tensions have made Chinese companies wary of Wall Street.
    In recent weeks, Washington and Beijing have clashed over US threats and restrictions against Chinese tech firms that have ensnared apps like TikTok and WeChat and chipmaker SMIC.
    TikTok's US ban is on hold. What comes next?
    On Wall Street, Chinese companies are also facing more scrutiny. Luckin Coffee (LK) was booted off the Nasdaq following the disclosure of massive accounting irregularities. US lawmakers, government agencies and stock exchanges have since taken steps aimed at limiting Beijing’s access to America’s vast capital markets.
    Ant is one of the biggest technology firms in the world and the biggest online payments platform in China. The app has established its presence in every aspect of financial life in China, from investment accounts and micro savings products to insurance, credit scores and even dating profiles.

      Its payments app Alipay had 731 million monthly active users as of September, Ant said in regulatory filings. The platform handled 118 trillion yuan ($17.7 trillion) in payments in the 12 months through June.
      The company said revenue for the nine months ended in September rose about 43% to 118.2 billion yuan ($17.7 billion) compared to the same period last year. Gross profit for the period rose 74% to 69.5 billion yuan ($10.4 billion).
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