China’s Ant Financial is in discussions with banks to resurrect plans for an initial public offering (IPO) that was shelved over a year ago, the Financial Times reported on Thursday (Jan. 16).
The IPO stalled due to regulatory and profitability issues. The Chinese financial services company — spun off from Alibaba, which has a 33 percent stake — was last valued at $150 billion in a 2018 fundraising round. Ant became the world’s most valuable unicorn in July 2019.
Credit Suisse and China International Capital Corp are both reportedly in talks with Ant Financial as the groundwork begins, sources told the news outlet.
Ant Financial’s initial product was the 2004 payment-processing service Alipay. It has since morphed into a platform offering a full suite of services — mobile payments, savings accounts, personal investing, lending, and credit scoring.
In the quarter ending last September, Ant added $309 million to Alibaba’s bottom line, and the eCommerce giant traded its 37.5 percent pre-tax profits for a 33 percent equity stake. The move affirmed Ant’s “ownership structure” and paved the way “for a potential IPO,” the FT report said.
Sources said it is possible that Ant Financial could consider listing in both Hong Kong and mainland China, however, an Ant spokesperson told the news outlet, “We don’t have a plan nor a timetable for an IPO.”
A dual listing was considered the likely scenario for Ant Financial, according to lawyers and bankers. Regardless, a listing will enable companies that invested in Ant’s $14 billion funding round — considered to be the largest global fundraising by a private company — to cash out.
In December, Ant Financial named Simon Hu as its chief executive officer as the Alibaba Group restructured. Hu came to Alibaba Group in 2005 and functioned as Ant Financial’s president since November 2018.
Ant Financial also said at the time that it was planning to expand its user base to 2 billion over the next 10 years and attract customers outside of China.