Alibaba's Jack Ma regains spot as Asia's richest ahead of stock sale of Alipay owner

Alibaba Group Holding chairman Jack Ma regained his spot as Asia's richest person with a higher valuation for the company's finance affiliate ahead of a stock sale that also created a dozen new billionaires. -- PHOTO: AFP
Alibaba Group Holding chairman Jack Ma regained his spot as Asia's richest person with a higher valuation for the company's finance affiliate ahead of a stock sale that also created a dozen new billionaires. -- PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (Bloomberg) - Alibaba Group Holding chairman Jack Ma regained his spot as Asia's richest person with a higher valuation for the company's finance affiliate ahead of a stock sale that also created a dozen new billionaires.

Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group Co., which owns payments processor Alipay, is valued at about US$50 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Ant Financial is weighing a private placement before going public in 2016, and details of the planned fundraising aren't finalized, the people said last week, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private.

Alipay, which is similar to PayPal, has more than 800 million registered users. Its mobile application has 190 million active users and handles 45 million transactions a day, the company said in October.

The latest valuation for Ant Financial boosted Ma's fortune by about US$10 billion to US$36.4 billion as of Friday in New York, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, overtaking Amazon.com Inc.'s Jeff Bezos. The new billionaires from the bigger valuation include the e-commerce giant's chief executive officer Jonathan Lu and chief people officer Lucy Peng.

"The entire e-payments market has just started," said Li Yujie, an analyst at RHB Research Institute Sdn. in Hong Kong. "In the future, Alipay will capture a lot of this market. When it goes public, it will produce many new billionaires."

Lu and Peng, both co-founders of Alibaba, each have a fortune valued at about US$1.8 billion, based on their stakes in Ant Financial, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Shao Xiaofeng, who joined Alibaba in 2005 and has been its chief risk officer in the past 2 1/2 years, has a fortune of about US$1.2 billion, according to the index.

Other Alibaba co-founders and senior executives also emerge as stakeholders of Ant Financial. Chief Operating Officer Daniel Zhang and the other eight shareholders each have a net worth of more than US$1 billion, according to the index. Zhang and CEO Lu are among the Alibaba executives who are on the board, along with Ma and Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai, who has a US$5.8 billion fortune.

The other senior executives include President Jianhang Jin, Trudy Dai, Alibaba's chief customer officer, Jian Wang, chief technology officer, and his deputy Peng Jiang. Other billionaire shareholders are Eddie Wu, Zeng Ming, Tiger Wang and Judy Tong.

Ma was ranked China's wealthiest on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in August, based on the earlier valuation for Ant Financial. He briefly overtook Hong Kong property tycoon Li Ka-shing for the top spot in Asia in December.