Jack Ma's Ant said to target US$225 billion valuation in IPO

Billionaire Jack Ma's Ant Group made about US$1.3 billion in profit in the March quarter.
Billionaire Jack Ma's Ant Group made about US$1.3 billion in profit in the March quarter.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Billionaire Jack Ma's Ant Group plans to file for dual listings in Hong Kong and Shanghai in the next few weeks, targeting a valuation of about US$225 billion (S$307.5 billion), people familiar with the matter said, in an effort to pull off the world's largest initial public offering.

The share sales could raise about US$30 billion in total if markets are favorable, said one of the people, requesting not to be named because the matter is private. The Hangzhou-based firm seeks to float its shares simultaneously on the Hong Kong stock exchange and the tech-focused Star board in Shanghai as soon as October, the people said.

A US$30 billion dual listing could mark the biggest debut globally, topping Saudi Aramco's record US$29.4 billion haul, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At a valuation of US$225 billion, Ant's valuation would be bigger than Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley combined.

Ant's plans including details of the share sale are subject to change, the people said. A representative for Ant declined to comment.

Ant, which made about US$1.3 billion in profit in the March quarter, is Alibaba Group Holding founder Ma's prized asset. It's morphed from a fintech platform to an online mall for everything from loans and travel services to food delivery, in a bid to win back shoppers lost to Tencent Holdings. With data from almost a billion users of its Alipay app at its back, Ant is pushing broadly into financial services, delivering technology such as robo investing and lending platforms as well as building out its advisory business.

Ant's IPO will give another boost to Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, which has already seen a renaissance of Chinese tech listings after it relaxed rules in the wake of losing China's biggest tech firms to New York. Alibaba, which owns a third of Ant, returned with a US$13 billion secondary listing last year in Hong Kong.

China's effort to build its own tech bourse in Shanghai underscores the geopolitical tension with Washington. A high-powered group of US regulators said this month that stock exchanges should set new rules that could trigger the delisting of Chinese companies. Firms must grant American regulators access to their audit work papers in order to trade on a US exchange, according to the President's Working Group on Financial Markets.

The recommendations target a problem that has vexed US regulators for more than a decade: China's refusal to allow inspectors from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to review audits of firms that trade on American markets. A high-profile accounting scandal at Luckin Coffee this year has also elevated such concerns.