Ant Financial — the Alibaba affiliate firm that runs the Alipay platform — is "closer to an initial public offering" but as of yet has not set a timetable for the event. A person close to the situation had previously estimated 2017 as the date the trigger would officially be pulled.
The same source also noted that despite media reports that the planned IPO had been moved from 2016 to 2017, there has never been an official timeline for the IPO, as nothing can move forward without the go-ahead from China's regulators. That regulatory approval is broadly expected to happen — but the line to the regulatory body's door is long and full of other firms also waiting.
Ant will also have to jump through at least a few regulatory hoops — particularly with regard to how many shareholders it has. Chinese rules impose restrictions on listings by companies that have more than 200 existing shareholders.
Ant Financial offers its employees stock options which can be converted into shares when the company lists or is sold. But these employees do not count as shareholders, according to Ant, which maintains it is in "full compliance" with Chinese regulations.
Ant Financial runs China's biggest payments service, Alipay, which has a total of 450 million active users and processes 170 million transactions per day. That volume means Ant is the second most valuable technology firm on Earth, trailing Uber after its recent $4.5 billion round that pushed its valuation to around $60 billion. Estimates as of today put Uber's value in the $62.5 billion-$65 billion range.
When and if the IPO drops in 2017, it will certainly bring with it a wave of high priced-excitement — the Ant Financial public offering has become ever more anticipated as Ant continues to grow worldwide on the backs (and phones) of Chinese consumers looking for an easy way to pay worldwide.
Chinese tourists spent over $215 billion overseas last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).