Ant Group Makes Moves Towards Global Expansion

While it might already be the world’s most valuable FinTech unicorn, Ant Financial never seems to be done making moves.

Launched in 2014 by Jack Ma, founder of Chinese tech giant Alibaba, Ant was formed out of Alipay and combined with other financial services. Since then, it has become China’s biggest firm in the $27 trillion Chinese payments market, and recently announced that it was planning to expand its user base to 2 billion over the next 10 years, hoping to attract customers outside of China with a focus on Europe. That led to the acquisition of WorldFirst, the U.K. payments company, in a $700 million deal. Earlier this year, it bought a minority stake in the Swedish split payments FinTech Klarna—Europe’s most valuable FinTech—for an undisclosed sum.

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But Ant’s ambitious growth plans have drawn scrutiny from Chinese regulators, leading the company to change its name, at least in business records, to Ant Group last month. Now there is word that Ant is looking to go public in what could become the world’s biggest IPO of the year. Citing anonymous sources, Reuters reported that the company is seeking a valuation of more than $200 billion.

The news comes after the company abandoned IPO plans more than a year ago due to regulatory and profitability issues. While Ant had been looking to sell shares in Hong Kong and mainland China at the same time, it will now probably stick with the Asian financial hub first for an easier listing process.

The sources revealed that the company hopes to sell between 5 percent and 10 percent of its shares in the IPO offering, and has been working with its advisers in recent months.
When asked for confirmation, Ant said the information about its IPO plans was incorrect, while Alibaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the IPO does come to fruition, it will reportedly enable Ant to work towards specific goals, such as digitizing China’s service industry, driving domestic demands, expanding globally through its e-wallet partners in nine countries, and investing in new technologies.