Temasek said to be in talks over $13b Ant funding

HONG KONG • Ant Financial is in talks to raise at least US$10 billion (S$13 billion) in a funding round that could value the Chinese Internet giant controlled by Alibaba founder Jack Ma at US$150 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

Singapore investment company Temasek Holdings wants to be the lead investor in the financing for China's largest Internet financial services company ahead of a highly anticipated initial public offering, one of the people said, asking not to be named because the matter was private.

If the deal goes ahead, Ant would be the world's largest fintech company and the biggest start-up, backed by Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba Group Holding.

The company, in which Alibaba plans to acquire a one-third stake, controls the country's premier mobile payments service and money market fund, and has moved deeper into areas from consumer lending to credit scoring.

Its Alipay has been instrumental in driving Alibaba's core business and is increasingly employed in physical stores around the world, shadowing the movements of Chinese tourists.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on Ant's fund-raising plan. If Ant gets its desired valuation, that would mark a major spike for an online behemoth valued at US$75 billion just a few years ago by CLSA. Ant Financial and Temasek declined to comment.

Ant Financial, in which Alibaba plans to acquire a one-third stake, controls China's premier mobile payments service and money market fund, and has moved deeper into areas from consumer lending to credit scoring.

Alibaba has not held a stake in the owner of Alipay since Mr Ma controversially spun out the business in 2011. Formally known as Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, Ant Financial is based in Hangzhou - Alibaba's home town.

Alibaba vice-chairman Joe Tsai has said that Ant is profitable in its three key businesses of payments, wealth management, and lending to consumers and small and medium-sized businesses.

The company is drumming up its presence overseas via investments into India's Paytm and Thailand's Ascend Money, an arm of the agriculture-to-telecommunications conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group.

Ant Financial, however, had a string of recent setbacks, with its United States expansion thwarted by the collapse of a deal for MoneyGram International, while its Chinese business faces scrutiny from regulators and increased competition from Tencent Holdings, the social media giant that runs WeChat.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'Temasek said to be in talks over $13b Ant funding'. Print Edition | Subscribe