Jack Ma’s Ant to go for dual IPOs in Hong Kong, Shanghai

Bloomberg | Updated on July 21, 2020

Seeks listing closer to home as trade tensions make New York’s capital markets less desirable

Billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Group is seeking a valuation north of $200 billion as it goes public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, people familiar with the matter said, kicking off a much-anticipated market debut for China’s leader in internet finance.

The parent of China’s largest mobile payment company will pursue a simultaneous dual-listing in Hong Kong and on the Shanghai stock exchanges STAR board, the Hangzhou-based firm said, in what promises to be one of the largest debuts in years. Ant is already more richly valued than most Wall Street firms and, if conditions are favourable, it could seek to raise more in its IPOs than Saudi Aramco’s record $29-billion haul, one of the people said, asking not to be identified talking about a private deal.

The crown jewel of the sprawling Alibaba empire, Ant has been accelerating its evolution into an online mall for everything from loans and travel services to food delivery, in a bid to claw back shoppers lost to Tencent Holdings Ltd.

Growing reach in Asia

Ant’s Chief Executive Officer Simon Hu has said that he wants people to think of Alipay as more than just a niche provider of financial services and the payments gateway for the world’s biggest e-commerce platform. Part of that is to grow Ant’s reach in Asia, where it has been working with digital payment providers in India and Thailand as well as peddling its expertise in wealth management and risk controls.

Ant picked China International Capital Corp, Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley for its Hong Kong offering, which could raise about $10 billion, people familiar with the matter said.

The Alibaba affiliate is the latest major Chinese company to seek a listing closer to home as increased trade tensions make New York’s capital markets less desirable. Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp raised $7.5 billion from a Shanghai share sale in July that ranks as the world’s biggest new stock offering this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Some Chinese internet firms including Inc. and NetEase Inc. have also added second listings in Hong Kong this year.

Despite abundant capital, it is not sure how investors would view Ant Group since there are a lot of tech stocks in the market, said Pamela Chung, a Hong Kong-based managing director and head of IPO at consultancy Tricor Group.

Dual listings, once the preferred route for China’s largest corporations from banks to oil and gas producers, have since fallen out of favour in part because of the complexities involved in orchestrating share sales across very different capital regimes. Ant’s decision is a triumph for Shanghai’s fledgling STAR board, conceived with the ambition of becoming mainland China’s preferred listing destination for high-growth companies.

Published on July 21, 2020

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